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Sustainability Bridges the Generation Gap

3p Contributor | Monday August 15th, 2011 | 3 Comments

By Will Hauser and Lauren Walters

The “sustainability generation” is a moniker most typically associated with Millennials. They are, after all, the generation that has grown up around hybrid vehicles, mainstream recycling, and locally sourced food movements.

They’re the generation so fluent in social media and online networking that building movements and impacting wholesale change for societal improvement is a reflexive action ingrained in everyday lifestyle. This generation is further characterized by a self-assurance that individual actions can and do make a difference.

Arguably though, the title of the “sustainability generation” could be just as easily claimed by the baby boomers whose early activism spurred awareness of environmentalism and demanded new approaches to better health and wellness for the human family.

The intergenerational approach to sustainability is something we see every day at Two Degrees, the first one-for-one food company in the world, which we founded a year ago to fight childhood hunger. For every Two Degrees nutrition bar sold, a medically-formulated nutrition pack is delivered to a malnourished child. The 35-year age gap between us, the co-founders of Two Degrees Food, creates a unique perspective to inform our approach to sustainability,  how our respective peer groups operate (and, critically, what motivates them), how best to shape what we do as a company, and how we do it.

For Will, who is 25 years old, there is a certainty of thinking about our mission where those in their 30s or 40s would be skeptical. As Will sees it, it doesn’t seem overly ambitious or odd at all that global malnutrition can be battled by everyday consumers simply purchasing a nutrition bar at the grocery store. Will has helped us see and shape a deliberate connection between cause and everyday lifestyle. And how to take advantage of a “plugged in” generation whose world consists increasingly of close connections and who share our belief that affecting change on the other side of the globe is simply and literally only Two Degrees away.

At 60, Lauren’s insights and connections have helped us bridge to stakeholders and customers who may not traditionally link commerce with social causes and who at times may question the relevance of how the singular purchase of a nutrition bar can combat global hunger. So, we’ve learned that as important as our message and our mission, our product itself has to stand on its own. We have to have mass appeal if we want to motivate the masses and that means creating a product that is competitive in the market and appealing to the appetite.

Despite our different ages, our backgrounds and approaches to achieving our objective of helping children who are malnourished are complementary and have been instrumental in building a thriving social venture. It is an intergenerational, collaborative approach that we believe can be a new model for achieving systemic change.

Will Hauser is Co-Founder and President of Two Degrees Food

Lauren Walters is Co-Founder and CEO of Two Degrees Food


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  • Next Starfish

    Excellent article.

    It seems obvious to me that any truly sustainable community has to function across the generations, and find ways to bring them closer together.

    It wouldn’t have been such a remarkable idea even a few decades ago, but the increasingly rapid rate of change in our culture (largely due to technology) has had the effect of seemingly reducing the number of things older and younger generations have in common. The fewer shared concerns we have, the more fragmented and disconnected society we will be.

    I’m not sure to what extent compassion and care for the problems in the world can be characterised on an age basis, but I welcome TDFood’s efforts.

    I’ve expanded on a few of these ideas in a post on my own blog this morning – http://bit.ly/ofYRkG

    I’ve expanded on a couple of these idea

  • http://www.givetogetjobs.com Stacy McCoy

    I’ve been a big fan of Two Degrees for some time now, but didn’t know the background. This was a great article and one I can really relate to. I just turned 25 and my business partner, who is my mom, is in her late 50s. It’s great to see social enterprises who value input across generations. In my opinion, it’s a real asset!

  • Ed

    What about Generation X being one of the sustainability generations – where’s the intergenerational solidarity? Only being alluded to as skeptical is a bit of a brush off (though better than the descriptor cynical, as the media has long tried to paint us as being).

    Let’s make a place for and demand the presence of every generation at the sustainability table. They all have their collaborative heroes as well as laggards.