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Millennial Momentum

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I am a millennial – one of the roughly 50 million Americans born after 1980 and coming of age in the 21st Century.  

Generational theorists have called me lazy, narcissistic and entitled.

But they’ve also called me tech-savvy, politically active and entrepreneurial. A survey by the Nonprofit Technology Network reports that millennials are especially keen on non-profit engagement and hungry to get involved.

Which brings us to EWG:  40 percent of EWG staff belongs to the millennial generation, a diverse group of lobbyists, researchers and analysts that have been giving you the straight facts for 20 years.

Why should millennials get involved with EWG?

Let me tell you the reasons I, as a politically active young woman, want to stay connected with EWG.

I’ll be honest—before I worked here, I knew little about EWG and the incredible work this organization does. But I had heard of EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides and Produce in one of my college environmental classes. I remember thinking, “Wow, what a handy little guide! Since I can’t always afford organic produce, now I know that I should splurge and buy organic apples, but I can save my money and buy conventionally-produced avocados.”

EWG produces several other handy quick-reference guides that make fast reading – for instance, EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database and the Sunscreen Guide.  Millennials are the Twitter generation, after all.  We like receiving information in a clear, crisp way, and EWG’s guides do just that.

Now, after having worked at EWG more than a year, when I read EWG reports that expose the devastating and avoidable amount of wetland loss or learn that my favorite shampoo contains endocrine-disrupting ingredients, I feel empowered to stay connected with EWG’s fight to fix our flawed food and toxics legislation system.

The generational term “millennial” has become quite a buzzword since Neil Howe and William Strauss’ book Millennials Rising, published in the year 2000, and Joel Stein’s TIME Magazine cover story, The Me Generation, published May 20. 

So why so much fuss about us? Well, millennials are the next generation of movers, shakers and moneymakers. That’s why EWG wants to inspire millennials to join its mission -- conducting original, game-changing research -- and urge them to take action to protect human health and the environment.

Food, water and toxic pollution will become increasingly more critical to my generation. To put it simply, the farm bill now before Congress will drive up food prices and leave more Americans hungry if not amended by 2014.

Another simple fact: The National Cancer Institute finds that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes. This fact alarms me.  EWG gives me tools to do something about this problem by investigating personal care products and exposing the ingredients that have been linked to cancer. 

Many millennial activists are involved in the climate change and Occupy movements.  Twenty-somethings have shown themselves to be passionate, confident and politically active. As the Nonprofit Technology study shows, millennials may not be donors, but they are fundraisers. They get motivated about causes that speak to them, causes that they feel are pertinent to their generation and that they can call their own.

Many of my fellow millennials have not yet realized that EWG’s fight is in fact their fight. Frankly, it makes me angry that 18, 276 residents of America’s largest cities received more than $24 million in direct payment farm subsidies last year.  Yet just two months ago,  two-thirds of the 39 legislators who represent America’s 100 hungriest counties voted to cut $40 billion over 10 years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. Wait, what?? EWG’s lobbying team meets with lawmakers regularly to discuss passing a better bill.  Since studies show that millennials are hungry for social change and advocacy, the farm bill represents a monumental priority for my generation.

EWG’s work speaks loud and clear to millennial moms. Forbes Magazine reported in May that millennials make up 22 percent of the mom population in America. At EWG, we already know that many of our readers are mommy bloggers and eco-friendly young parents.  But EWG reports on toxic chemicals in everyday products appeal to anyone who doesn’t want to increase her risk of cancer or consume chemicals that disrupt the hormonal system.   A study by Pew called Millennials: Confident, Connected, Open to Change reported that 35 percent of young women use the Internet for health information. These women, and their male cohorts, can use EWG’s Enviroblog for this vital health information. With their smart phones, millennials can scan the barcode of personal care products while shopping and find EWG’s Skin Deep ratings of what they’re considering buying. We’ve made sure our website reads clearly and easily on smartphone devices so you can get information on farm policy, toxics legislation and fracking facts at your fingertips.

My generation is beginning to realize that we don’t have to lead a foundation to support a non-profit. And we don’t necessarily have to serve in a top position on the Hill to spark political change. Tech-savvy millennials can use the upcoming Skin Deep Mobile App to choose safer products and help move the market. We can visit EWG’s online action center and sign petitions to be delivered to members of Congress. Just a few clicks on the website, and you’ll see that EWG tells stories that empower people to follow issues and make change.

And EWG has empowered me in a unique way. In just a few months, I will depart on a two-year volunteer journey with the U.S. Peace Corps. I will work with youth in Morocco to help them to spark social change in their community. I aim to teach young men and women about environmental issues that are, and will continue to be, of vital importance to the millennial generation.

Hey, media, want to call me narcissistic, lazy, and selfish? Think again. Millennials like me are all over the map, and they have entrepreneurial ideas and activist spirits running through their blood. They are building momentum. I see a great relationship budding between EWG and my generation, and I’m excited to see how we will work together to protect human health and the environment for the generations that follow.

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