Many believe that sustainability will influence the purchases of tomorrow’s customers. In fact, 73% of Generation Z consumers in a 2020 survey said they would be willing to pay more for sustainably sourced products. Is sustainability all that tomorrow’s shoppers will look for, though?
In a breakout session during the Sustainable Agriculture Summit, three college students shared the factors they say most affect their purchasing decisions. These individuals represent the oldest members of Generation Z, which includes young people born between 1997 and 2012.
All three panelists recognized steps they and their peers take to be more environmentally friendly, from refilling reusable water bottles to minimizing the use of plates and silverware each day to cut back on water usage. They agreed that sustainability is important for their generation, but the fact that college students often have limited income also comes into play.
“Price has a big impact on the products I consume,” said Lalo Vargas, a dairy science student at the University of Idaho. Besides price, he said he also considers the sustainability of the product and the quality of the product. “It’s a mix of those three things for me,” he noted.
“Price factors into a lot of what I can buy as a college student,” agreed Maria Brockamp, an agricultural and consumer economics major at the University of Illinois. She does, however, consider sustainability, including the human side of food production. For example, when buying coffee, she looks for packaging that indicates workers are paid a fair wage. “Workers that are paid well will treat the land and resources well,” she rationalized.
For Parker Aase, a South Dakota State University student majoring in agronomy and precision agriculture, he is looking for practicality and opportunities to eliminate unnecessary waste. “If I see something with minimal packaging, that’s where I’ll go,” he shared.
Still, he said cost must be considered. “We are broke college students; there has to be give and take,” Aase said. “I am willing to throw an extra dollar out there, though, if I think it is that important.” He also anticipated being more willing to pay extra for sustainably sourced products once he graduated and had a steadier income.
When it comes to finding sustainable agriculture solutions in the future, Aase said the different generations must collaborate. “It’s a joint effort, it’s a human thing,” he said. “We have to come together, maybe not on the same page but in the same chapter.”
Brockamp reminded the audience that Generation Z can play an important role in sustainable solutions because they are learning about this in the classroom and are living a more sustainable lifestyle every day.
“Invite their opinion to the table when it comes to sustainability,” she encouraged.