The world has burdened Generation Y with the heavy responsibility of saving the world. Yet it seems reluctant to give them the resources they need to get the job started. Set adrift up a litter-filled creek, millennials barely have the funds to keep themselves afloat, let alone buy a paddle.
Leaving the most eco-conscious generation with the smallest amount of disposable income seems counterproductive at best—at worst, it may prove to be fatal. Even pensioners, who have little to no interest in the environment, have significantly more money to invest in a sustainable future—if only they would.
When it comes to pursuing an eco-friendly lifestyle, however green their intentions, millennials are restricted, especially in regard to their already limited housing options. So is there any way millennials can afford to be the change they want to see?
Poor quality housing is all millennials can afford
Sharing houses and renting rooms has become the norm, especially in London. It’s a much more financially draining alternative to securing a place on the property ladder; for young people in the capital, over half their annual income is consumed by rent.
This style of living has some benefits for the environment, if not for the tenant. According to research on ‘the environmental impact of singles’, living alone is actually bad for the environment. The amount of energy and resources consumed per person is much smaller within houseshares.
However, for the lowest earning millennials, the rental properties within their price range are not likely to be environmentally sound buildings. Last year over 2,000 landlords were letting out rooms in properties which failed to meet legal standards. Problems like damp, drafts and ‘risks of explosions’ are far from safe and environmentally sound.
In fact, the UK is home to some of the most drafty and poorly insulated properties in Europe. These houses consume natural resources in a wasteful and unsustainable manner, including using excessive amounts of oil for heating.
This problem is also felt intensely by young people trying to reduce living costs by becoming property guardians. Although one could argue that property protection is as socially environmentally beneficial as it is to the environment—deterring crime, and otherwise costly damage—the dilapidated state of these properties means that resources are consumed uneconomically, even when the property is inhabited by a number of guardians.
Do new co-living models offer an environmentally friendly solution?
As the ozone layer shrinks and the global population expands, new models of living are being forced into existence. Co-living spaces have sprung up in major cities across the world; from London to Beijing, millennials are opting to stay in huge residential buildings which provide hotel-style room services and in-house amenities.
Not only do these co-living spaces offer affordable housing solutions, but they also offer young people the opportunity to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint.
These environments have been designed with an emphasis on social and communal space. London apartment developers Tipi have observed that this is one of many housing sector trends influenced by the priorities espoused by millennials. Communal facilities and spaces are designed, in part, to encourage people to share resources, such as cars and food, thus cutting down on the amount of natural resources consumed per person.
Eco-friendly design & materials will make green homes more viable
With eco-friendly design high on the agenda of many developers—as well as millennials—these new co-living buildings will only become more environmentally sound as demand continues to grow. This could give young residents opportunities to live sustainably, using technology and materials which they would not normally be able to afford.
These new features could soon range from solar power panels and rainwater harvesting systems, to more luxurious features which first appeared in green commercial design industries, such as eco-friendly elevators.
While many of these designs are in keeping with millennial expectations and budgets, there are also infrastructural and interior components that are not so green. Kitchen renovators Modern Worktops have pointed out that laminate surfaces, which many communal kitchens use, are a problem for the environment—they are difficult to recycle, which creates more energy waste.
Unfortunately, Generation Y are simply not a position—financial or otherwise—to complain, let alone take complete control over the environmental impact of their homes.