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Youth can influence switch to sustainable lifestyles, says UNEP survey

UNEP completes global research project on sustainable lifestyles

Young adults urged to play role in shift towards sustainable lifestyles

Paris, 11 May 2011 - Young people want to be a force for change and create their own vision of sustainable development, according to survey of more than 8000 young adults from 20 countries conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme.

The study, called the Global Survey for Sustainable Lifestyles, was one of the first global surveys on sustainable lifestyles. The results provide intriguing insights into the way young people think about their daily lives and activities, their aspirations for the future, and their beliefs about the role they play in influencing change.

Its results show that young adults from Australia to Vietnam, and Ethiopia to Egypt, consider poverty and environmental degradation to be the world's two biggest challenges, but they want more information on what they can do to be part of the solution. They also need help to understand the combined environmental, economic and social pillars of sustainable development.

The survey's results are presented in UNEP's new report, Visions for Change: Recommendations for Effective Policies on Sustainable Lifestyles, highlighting the need to work together to better understand, educate and empower young adults worldwide so they can create their own positive visions of sustainable lifestyles and become involved in change.

For instance, the survey found that:

  • While young people are willing to participate and improve the world they live in, and are confident that they can do so (with only 23.5 per cent of young people thinking they could not have an influence on local policies), they need guidance and opportunities to take concrete action.

  • Although most young people consider environmental degradation as one of the top two global challenges, this varies from region to region; 82.3 per cent of young people in Australia, 73.8 per cent in Vietnam and 71.1 per cent in Sweden consider environmental degradation as one of the top two global challenges, while only 42.4 per cent in Egypt, 38 per cent in Brazil and 34.2 in Argentina do so.

  • Young adults are very satisfied with their lives, with only a few of them dreaming of luxury lifestyles, but they still seek financial, social, environmental and personal security. They want to live in a clean environment, as opposed to chaotic and polluted urban areas, and be closer to nature, particularly in developing/emerging countries like Brazil, Vietnam and Lebanon.

  • Although demand for organic and local foods is strong, young people in most surveyed countries do not mention organic food when asked to describe their daily purchasing habits. For instance, in the Philippines, organic food and fair trade products were hardly mentioned and only 10 per cent of young people in Portugal thought about it when explaining their choices.

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Further Resources

Download Survey Report

UNEP TUNZA (Children and Youth)

Recommendations for Effective Policies on Sustainable Lifestyles: Country Papers


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