The Youth and Sustainability: a contradictory commitmentc

1st June 2017, an event triggered the youth around sustainability matters: the United States withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change.[1] That event marked the start of a strong mobilisation of the youth around the world.

In Europe and worldwide, the media coverage of the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg followed by a decisive vote for green political parties during the European elections made visible the collective commitment of the youth to sustainability. Their objective is twofold: to demonstrate that ecology is not the prerogative of a political party or a social class, but also to allow a renewal of the European Union around federative common values.

However, do these young people continue their commitment as individuals or do they sometimes find themselves in contradictions about what is or is not really ecological? So to say: is there really a committment of the youth with sustainability?

The relationship between the youth and sustainability: a renewal in the building of Europe?

The youth and sustainability; why are they committed?

Even when young people are under the legal voting age, they are committed to major issues related to the environment and the future of their planet.[2] Their favourite themes are the degradation of the biodiversity of the oceans, soils, air and climate, light pollution, plastic, deforestation.

The claims vary from one country to another, as progresses in environmental protection are marked by disparities among countries. For example, in the area of packaging deposit, Germany introduced a deposit system for reusable bottles in the 1990s, and for plastic cans and bottles in 2003.[3] Countries such as Denmark, Estonia, Iceland and Sweden have a high collection rate for glass, plastic and aluminium packaging. Other countries such as Finland, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands set up incentives for returnable glass, plastic and aluminium packaging. Last but not least, countries such as France, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Latvia are still considering setting up  a similar system. In terms of transport, the Netherlands, Denmark and Hungary are the European countries whose inhabitants use bicycles as a daily means of travel with 36%, 23% et 22% respectively.[4]

In both Southern and Eastern European Union, climate change is regarded as having an impact on daily life.[5] In Greece, Italia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia, more than 90% of citizens consider that climate change has an impact on their daily life, whereas the level rises to 80% among the French, the Polish, the Spanish or the Portuguese and falls to 60% in Sweden, Finland, Denmark or the United Kingdom.

What means do they use? Is there really a link between the youth and sutainability?

The connection between the youth ans sustainability is manifested through marches, student strikes, publications as well as exchanges and challenges on social networks such as the TrashTag Challenge, by posting photos before/after a clean-up of seas, beaches or forests.

Young people committed themselves without any tactical or strategic issues as can be done by political politics, where 51% accuse them of having responsibility for the environment protection. Moreover, 95% believe politicians are not doing “enough” about environmental issues and climate change and 57% say that they are not doing “anything at all”. [6]

You believe that environmental protection is a primary responsibility of…

youth behaviours and sustainability
"you think that the main responsible for environmental issues are: governments and public institutions (51%) citizens (34%) provate companies (15%)"

From an early age, young people are made aware of the need to protect nature and the environment and they have the will to act in the general interest, thinking about their future and future generations. They can then form associations in order to their claims can be heard. The Eurobarometer survey on European youth indicates that 53% of the age range 15 to 30 has joined an association during the year.[7]

This is the case in France with Le lobby de Poissy, a junior association created by Anaïs Willocq, teacher at Michel de Montaigne school in Poissy, and Elsa Grangier, journalist, producer and coordinator of this project[8]. This has been supported by Nicolas Hulot, journalist and former Minister of Ecology and Solidarity Transition and also Hubert Reeves, astrophysicist and ecologist.

Progressively, these actors have succeeded in mobilising 310 children aged 10 to 17 years old, attending school in ten European countries and 27 of their teachers.[9] The Kids for Planet’s Rights collective then formed,[10] every country participated in the drafting of the European Declaration of the Rights of the Planet and the Living, presented at the European Parliament in Strasbourg[11] on Wednesday 27 November 2019, then translated into the 27 languages of the European Union. Its article 18 takes up the concept of ecocide, brought in France by the lawyer Valérie Cabannes[12], stating that “the planet has the right to be represented to take legal actions against any person responsible for excessive pollution”[13].

Lobby Poissy, youth and sustainability
The Lobby of Poissy

The youth and sustainability on behaviours: an individual commitment sometimes contradictory

Ingrained customer habits

This relationship between the youth and sustainability could suggest that young people are also adopting benevolent gestures in their daily lives to protect and fight against climate change. However, a study carried out from 1 to 14 March 2019, involving 1678 young individuals aged 18 to 23, using the quota method, puts into relief that 83% of the Gen Z honestly thinks that they make daily efforts to limit their impact on the environment and 18% say they do a lot,[14] sometimes more than previous generations. In Europe, this is true in only two sectors: transports because they prefer walking, public transport, car-sharing, bicycle and scooters;  the purchasing alternatives of new products favouring the second-hand market, bartering, borrowing.[15]

However, this link between the youth and sustainability is not witnessed by their behaviour as it is not that eco-responsible as one may think. iIn some areas, they seem to make fewer efforts than previous generations.[16]

  • Systematic waste sorting (63%) ;
  • Reducing disposable products consumption (47%) ;
  • Reducing water and energy consumption (46%) ;
  • Systematic purchasing of local produce (25%) ;
  • Using a more ecological means of transport (23%) ;
  • The less frequent and more efficient use of their car (22%) ;
  • Avoid short-haul flights (9%).

Customer and hedonistic habits are still ingrained among young people. They buy new clothes, take advantage of sales to buy more,[17] they do not forgo air travels and do not have the reflex to turn off electronic devices on stand-by.

A lack of knowledge of what is really ecological.

With a great deal of goodwill and conviction, young people intend to adopt a virtuous ecological behaviour. Still, a lack of knowledge persists between what is really an ecological action and what just seems to be an ecological one. The “greenwashing”[18] communication and marketing techniques cloud the issue and do not allow young people to make appropriate and eco-responsible choices. Heeding the sirens call of marketing, they buy ecolabel or organic label products, with biodegradable instead of buying in bulk, or single-use products instead of sustainable containers. Computers are being used instead of television for streaming videos or films and listening to online music has replaced media used by previous generations (vinyl records, compact disc). Although these media seem “green” or “eco-friendly”, in reality, they consume a high quantity of data with a huge ecological impact in terms of CO2. Bicycles and scooters, which they particularly appreciate, may also appear like soft modes of transport, but they are not totally ecological, since they also work with batteries that contain lithium, whose extraction requires a lot of water.[19]

It is therefore necessary to ask which actions could be taken to encourage people to understand what is ecological and what is not really ecological in order to adopt behaviours that this connection between young people and ecology comes to realize. Mentalities are changing in a positive way at a collective and individual level, but what can young people do if they are not well-informed and if the available products are not planet-friendly?

Public policies for the environment protection must be stronger in terms of prevention and awareness-raising through information and communication campaigns targeted to schools, an eco-labelling for environment-friendly and recyclable products, subsidies for the renting or purchasing of goods such as non-electric bicycles and scooters and not only for those that are electric[20], the introduction of laws for manufacturers in order to stop their production of over-packaging products even if they are recyclable, etc..

The economic reason is also between young people and ecology. Organic and eco-responsible products cost is higher than other products and, for of them, their benefits are not significant enough to give-up their consumer trend.[21]   

The transition of mentalities and actions cannot be changed overnight. This could only be efficient and sustainable if it can be carried out smoothly over decades, in line with the principles of the ecological transition that is an evolution towards a new economic and social model and a sustainable development model. [22] The solutions advocated must be thought out, tempered and realistic in order to ensure the results are not the opposite of the expected effect or the decisions taken play into the hands of economic interests or make Europe dependent on world powers (Russia and China).

Thus the European Commission has presented a European Green Deal, a Green Pact for the environment, drawing together european measures to make Europe climate neutral in 2050. Voted by the European Parliament on 7 October 2020, the objective is to reduce 60% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared to 1990 level),[23] but also to reduce the use and risk of pesticides by 2030 in the fields of agriculture and food the “farm to fork” strategy[24] and the protection of biodiversity.

Corinne Ors 


Sources and reference


[2] Anne-Marie Dieu, research director at the Walloon Observatory of  Childhood, Youth and Assistance to Youth.



[5] européenne d’investissement According to a BVA institute survey carried out for the European Investment Bank published Monday 25 of November 2019.



[8] Elsa Grangier, Rêver Grand, Ces enfants qui s’engagent pour la planète, Éditions du Seuil, Paris, mars 2020.

[9] Poland, Finland, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, Sweden, France and its overseas departments such as Guyana, la Polynésie Française et la Réunion.



[12] Valérie Cabanes is a jurist in international law specialising in human rights and humanitarian law, ecologist and French essayist.

[13] This recognition of legal and fundamental rights was already adopted in the Constitution of  Ecuador in 2008 and in 2009, Bolivia adopted similar measures. Since 2010, the UN has been proclaiming that harmony with nature must be sought and must support human societies development.

[14] A survey about young people and ecology





[19] Lithium is a rare alkali metal produced in faraway countries (Australia, Chili, Argentina, China)





[24] “The Farm to Fork” strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system constitutes one of the 11 components of the Green Deal. It sets out 5 priorities to be achieved : ensuring food safety, reducing the consumption of pesticides and fertilisers d’engrais, combating antibiotic resistance, supporting innovation and improving consumers’ information. The “Farm to Fork” strategy includes setting targets to reduce in the use of plant  health products, fertilizers and antibiotics, plans to develop organic farming, to combat food waste and fraud in the agri-food supply chain but also the reopening debates about the use of processed animal proteins, the adoption of new technologies for plant breeding or the animal welfare. Source :


Are Electric Vehicles Beneficial Over Internal Combustion Vehicles?

In recent years the sales of electric vehicles have been rising exponentially. This has caused various car manufactures to reconsider their vehicle lines from internal combustion to the development of electric vehicles. The development of electric vehicle batteries, motors and motor control technologies can be seen in big manufactures such as BMW, Mercedes and VW. The main player who kicked off the electric vehicle race is Tesla who have expanded into developing their own battery technologies. Furthermore, non-traditional vehicle companies such a Dyson have joined in developing their own electric vehicle. This asks the question why are electric vehicles better? The following points out the main reasons. 

Image result for electric vehicle





1. Air Quality and Emissions of Electric Vehicles

In 2040 the UK government has decided to ban the sale of combustion vehicles. This is in line with the UKs clean air initiatives. The main reasons behind the ban is that combustion vehicles pollute the air around them, especially in dense cities. Air pollution has been proven to be linked to various respiratory issues in people, with higher levels of asthma in cities with air quality problems linked to traffic pollution. 

Electric cars produce no emissions directly, therefore the immediate environment they function in will remain pollutant free. This will provide health benefits to resident’s whole live near busy streets.

Image result for air quality electric vehicles


2. Instant Torque

One of the best notable performance characteristics by electric vehicle enthusiasts is that electric cars provides instant torque throughout the RPM range meaning that electric vehicles do not require a traditional transmission. This allows electric vehicles to accelerate much faster than combustion cars.  See the video demonstrating the level of acceleration the new tesla roadster contains.


3. Regenerative Braking 

Electric vehicles can regenerate the energy that is used as kinetic energy when the car is moving. In traditional combustion braking systems, the vehicle is slowed using friction breaking this waste valuable energy as heat. Electric Vehicles can brake using the electric motor and regenerate the energy into the battery pack of the car. This allows a more efficient journey as the braking energy will be used again for driving the car again. 

Video demonstration:

4. Electric Vehicles Efficiency 

Image result for electric vehicle efficiency

Electric motors are highly efficient at converting electrical energy to rotational kinetic energy at approximately 90% to which internal combustion vehicles have efficiencies around 30%. This means that electric vehicles have lower energy costs and have less energy demands for similar usage. Electric cars would have a lower carbon footprint per mile comparison to combustion vehicles. 

However! Also with Electric Vehicles, it’s not all smooth driving!

Electric cars will have some disadvantages comparted to internal combustion. Many of these issues are surrounded around the battery pack contained in the vehicle. 

1. How to charge Electric vehicles? 

Typically, people will charge their car on their driveways with their residential electrical supply. The main concern with people is that they will run out of charge, or it takes too long. This is because people are too used to filling up at petrol stations within 15 minutes.

However, this isn’t the case with electric cars, this requires a behavioural change. This could be in a similar manner to which people charge their smartphones, such as charging overnight or plugging in as soon as you get home. If a long journey is needed some planning should be done at which place you should stop and charge the car. Newer electric cars can be charged to 80% within 45mins with a 100KW charger. 

The main issue is for electric vehicles owners without a driveway or a local charging point. Considerations of charging availability for each electric vehicles buyer must undertake before purchasing an electric vehicle. It must be noted that thousands of charging points are added each year, increasing availability could make it possible for electric vehicles owners without a driveway.

Image result for eV charging




2. Li-ion Battery packs in Electric Vehicles have a limited number of charge cycles.

Image result for eV battery pack

Most Smartphone users have felt the health of their batteries decrease. This is a similar case with electric cars. The driver will need to monitor the state of health of their battery pack to get an accurate range. At the end of the battery pack life the cells within the pack are no longer good enough for electric vehicles but can be re-used in second life applications such as energy storage. 

3. The Electricity Grid.

Currently the electricity grid cannot cope with all the homes in the UK charging their electric vehicle. This problem has been worked on by national grid and current plans say that electricity costs will change depending on when you charge your electric car, peak times will be charged at a higher price. Secondly the environmental benefits that electric cars provide can be removed when the electrical supply is generated in through coal or gas generation. For a smaller carbon footprint, it must be ensured that renewable sources are a large percentage of the energy mix that is used to charge the vehicle. See below for the current energy mix in the UK. 







In conclusion the benefits electric cars provide are highly beneficial to the environment and the users of the vehicle in comparison to internal combustion. The combustion engine in mainstream vehicle applications will be obsolete. The electric vehicle revolution is near, are you ready? 


Hitendra Pandya

Perchè le auto elettriche sono meglio

La vendita di auto elettriche negli ultimi anni sono cresciute esponenzialmente, questo ha portato le case automobilistiche a riconsiderare la propria produzione spostandola sempre di più verso questo tipo di auto. Lo sviluppo di batterie, motori e sistemi di controllo del motore per auto elettriche è già considerevolmente presente in colossi dell’automotive quali BMW, Mercedes e Volkswagen. Il ruolo di protagonista in questa rivoluzione però ce l’ha sicuramente Tesla, che ha fatto da pioniere nella sfida dell’auto elettrica e è cresciuta grazie allo sviluppo di una propria tecnologia per le batterie. Oltre a queste, anche aziende che nulla hanno tradizionalmente a che vedere con la produzione di auto, quali ad esempio la britannica Dyson, si stanno ora cimentando nello sviluppo di veicoli elettrici. Perchè tutta questo interesse da parte di queste aziende verso le auto elettriche? Sono davvero meglio? Qui sotto cerchiamo di spiegare le ragioni principali.

Image result for electric vehicle
  1. Qualità dell’aria e emissioni delle auto elettriche

Il parlamento britannico, in linea con le sue politiche ambientali, ha deciso di proibire entro il 2040 la vendita di auto con motori a combustione. Le principali ragioni dietro a questa decisione è l’inquinamento di questo tipo di auto, soprattutto nelle grandi città. E’ stato infatti accertato che l’inquinamento dell’aria è collegato a varie tipologie di problemi respiratori nella popolazione, i livelli di asma più alti sono stati riscontrati nelle città con qualità dell’aria peggiore dovuta al traffico.

Le auto elettriche invece non producono direttamente emissioni, pertanto l’ambiente nel quale si trovano non viene intaccato dal loro funzionamento e ciò comporterà un miglioramento della salute di coloro che vivono nei pressi di strade con alto traffico.

Image result for air quality electric vehicles

2. Coppia subito disponibile!

Una delle caratteristiche più brillanti delle performance di un’auto elettrica è certamente il fatto che il motore è sempre in coppia indipendentemente da quali siano i giri del motore in un determinato momento. Per i più tecnici , questo implica che i veicoli elettrici non richiedono un sistema di trasmissione tradizionale. Di fatto, ciò permette a queste auto di accelerare molto più velocemente rispetto alle auto a combustione interna. Per capirne meglio gli effetti concreti, vedere il breve video qui sotto che mostra il livello di accelerazione della nuova Tesla roadster.

3. Frenatura a recupero energetico

Le auto elettriche possono generare energia che è usata come energia cinetica quando l’auto si sta muovendo. Nelle auto a combustione tradizionali, l’energia prodotta durante la frenata è sprecata producendo calore, in queste auto invece la frenata avviene grazie al motore elettrico e l’energia viene rigenerata portandola nella batteria dell’auto. Ciò consente un viaggio con maggiore efficienza energetica visto che l’energia usata durante la frenata verrà poi riutilizzata durante la guida.

4. Efficienza delle auto elettriche

Image result for electric vehicle efficiency

I motori elettrici sono altamente efficienti nel convertire energia elettrica in energia cinetica rotazionale riuscendo a trasformare in movimento circa il 90% dell’energia, quando invece l’efficienza delle auto tradizionali invece è del 30%. Questo significa che i veicoli elettrici hanno un minore impatto nelle emissione di anidride carbonica per chilometro rispetto alle auto a combustione interna.

Ma attenzione! Non ci sono solo i pro!

Anche i veicoli elettrici hanno i loro contro rispetto alle auto con motori a combustione. Il principale dei contro riguarda la batteria all’interno del veicolo.

  1. Come si ricaricano le auto elettriche?

Generalmente, chi ha un’auto elettrica la ricarica in casa prima di partire. La preoccupazione principale è dunque quella di rimanere senza ricarica energetica lungo il tragitto o che ci voglia troppo tempo rispetto a un tradizionale rifornimento di carburante. Questo dunque richiede un cambiamento delle proprie abitudini, l’utilizzatore probabilmente deve infatti imparare a ricaricare l’auto in modo simile a come avviene per il proprio smartphone, ricaricando durante la notte o al proprio ritorno a casa. In caso di lunghi viaggi, occorrerà pianificare con attenzione le soste per la ricarica individuando i luoghi idonei lungo il percorso. I modelli più recenti di auto elettriche possono essere ricaricati fino all’80% in 45 minuti con un caricatore da 100kW. Il problema principale riguarda dunque coloro che hanno un’auto elettrica ma non hanno modo di ricaricarla in casa o in altro luogo. Prima di acquistare un’auto di questo tipo occorre quindi considerare la disponibilità di tali punti di ricarica. Va tuttavia sottolineato che migliaia di punti di ricarica stanno venendo aggiunti ogni anno e che l’aumento del numero di questi punti potrebbe agevolare la vita dei possessori di auto elettriche così come il loro acquisto.

Image result for eV charging

2. La batteria agli ioni di Litio ha un numero limitato ricariche

Image result for eV battery pack

Come si può spesso notare con gli smartphone, la durata della batteria dopo un po’ diminuisce. Questo avviene anche con le batterie delle auto elettriche: il guidatore dovrà monitorare lo stato di salute della batteria. Alla fine del ciclo di vita della batteria, le sue celle non possono più essere utilizzate per un veicolo elettrico ma possono essere comunque destinate ad altri scopi come ad esempio l’immagazzinamento di energia.

3. La rete elettrica

L’attuale rete elettrica non riesce a far fronte ad un’ipotetica ricarica da parte di tutte le case. I gestori delle varie reti nazionali sono al lavoro su questo problema e gli attuali piani dicono che il costo dell’energia potrebbe variare a seconda del momento in cui viene ricaricata l’auto poichè i momenti di picco saranno quelli in cui il costo dell’energia sarà maggiore. In secondo luogo, i benefici per l’ambiente forniti dall’auto elettrica vengono in parte vanificati quando l’energia per ricaricarla proviene da fonti quali carbone o gas: per un vero impatto nella riduzione dell’emissione di anidride carbonica, occorre che la percentuale di energia utilizzata per la ricarica provenga quindi da fonti rinnovabili. Qui sotto, il grafico mostra il mix energetico in UK.

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In conclusione, le auto elettriche permettono benefici per l’ambiente e per gli utenti che sono di gran lunga maggiori rispetto ai veicoli a combustione interna e pertanto i motori di questi saranno presto obsoleti nella gran parte delle applicazioni per i veicoli.

La rivoluzione dei veicoli elettrici è vicina. Tu sei pronto?

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Hitendra Pandya

tradotto in italiano da Filippo Paggiarin


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