Blog: Lydia Allen on bringing millennials, tech and the environment together

13 Oct 2016

Young people believe that climate change is the most serious issue facing their future. Ice caps are melting, habitats are being destroyed, animals are becoming extinct and humans are losing their homes from the effects of climate change. Millennials want to take action.

There are 1.8 billion people in the world aged 15-29. However, only 1.65% of politicians are under the age of 30. This makes it considerably harder for young people’s voices to be heard.

Over the past 30 years, technology has advanced at lightning speed. Millennials have grown up with this technology, knowing exactly how to use each piece of technical kit that has hit commercial markets. As ‘digital natives’, Millennials have the ability to use a smartphone in a way never used before.

The majority of computer coding technology has been available for anyone to buy over the past 5 years with the Raspberry Pi increasing in popularity among coding enthusiasts. Computer programmers or coders will be influential in linking devices together, adding to the ever growing ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). IoT will result in a decrease in waste and pollution and an increase in efficiency across industry processes. This combination creates a ‘circular economy’ – fundamental to reaching the 17 sustainability goals set by world leaders in September 2015 at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit.

Millennials have all this at their fingertips. The potential is enormous but to show young people the impact it can have on the environment takes a fundamentally different approach.

Without education, Millennials will not understand the links between digital technology and sustainability. Universities have been at the forefront of implementing this but more is still needed. A digital skills gap has already been identified amongst disadvantaged groups of young people. It urgently needs addressing before digital disappears over the horizon for some.

For example, ‘smart cities’ – these will integrate both ICT and IoT to understand and use data coming from different sources across the city to make processes more efficient. From traffic lights to health care, every sector can be linked to create a smart city. This precision gives us greater control over environmental impacts – for example traffic congestion could be minimised through efficient traffic lights/congestion sensors.

So very soon we’ll have the tech to improve our environmental footprint but will the next generation have the desire to use it for that purpose?

We need to foster in young people a desire to harness digital for sustainability.

The Millennials are the last generation that has time to change the current predictions of climate change. It’s now or never.


Lydia Allen is sustainability advisor on The Environment Now, a project run in partnership with O2 Think Big which will support groups of young people aged 17 – 25 to develop sustainable solutions to pressing environmental challenges. The programme will launch in November. The Environment Now programme is funded by O2 and the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund as part of the Our Bright Future programme.