Stakeholder Trends and Insights
How Kids' Pop Culture Is Helping to Shape Early Sustainability Thinking

Get ‘em while they’re young.

It’s a strategy long embraced by the world of media, advertising and marketing, whether it be product placement in kids’ literature, TV shows or movies; cartoon characters created to make a brand more cuddly; or movies and games that come with a readymade collection of toys attached.

Indeed, over the years youth marketing has proved particularly adept at convincing kids to pester parents to buy sugary cereals and snacks, visit fast food joints for the promise of free plastic toys and, of course, compile enormous Christmas and birthday wish lists.

Any adult who has children or teenagers already knows this young generation has a greater understanding, appreciation and tolerance of environmental and social equality than ever before.

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Part of this is down to sustainable thinking in education, but kids’ popular culture also plays a key role. Young people today are growing up in a media environment in which renewable energy is portrayed as the norm; electric vehicles are seen as cool; and strong female and LGBT characters are to be rooted for, not ridiculed. For the most part they also have a better understanding of human rights and their changing climate than generations before.

In Sustainly’s latest Trend Briefing, we turned our attention to the creative world of film, TV, books and video games and how kids culture helps shape sustainability thinking in children. Our research was extensive and admittedly quite distracting (who knew you could spend so much time in Minecraft?). Along with that all-consuming video game we went back in time to look at some of the environmental-focused media of the late 1960s and 1970s as well as more recently climate-change-themed kids movies and TV.

Over the course of our journey we stumbled on such gems as the 1972 book, Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish; a 1987 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” TV episode all about global warming; 2006’s Happy Feet (vilified as far-left propaganda in some crazier quarters); and, of course, Minecraft’s excellent sustainable design collaboration with the United Nations.

Ultimately, the more that writers, video game and filmmakers, and other content creators integrate sustainability into their work the more quickly our society will adapt. So, as they say in the movies: Lights, Camera, Action!

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