Generation Y – Great Britain's Worst Environmental Offender

Over half of 18-24 year olds unaware of their energy consumption, 72 percent are serial wasters of water

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LONDON, UK - 24 Aug 2009: An independent study commissioned by IBM (NYSE:IBM) has revealed that whilst Generation Y (aged 18-24 years) is apparently the most informed age group when it comes to environmental issues; it is the worst group of offenders for energy awareness and water wastage. Overall, the study found Great Britain’s consumers spend £1.9 billion a year on unnecessary water and sewage charge 

55 percent of Gen-Y could not tell which household appliance consumed more energy – tumble dryers or incandescent light bulbs – compared to 43 percent of Great Britain’s consumers overall.  

When given a list of household electrical appliances and asked which has the capacity to use the most energy, men were generally less aware, with one in four believing that a kettle uses more energy than a tumble dryer.

The study also found the Gen-Y group was the biggest culprit in terms of water wastage.  In the first week of June, 72 percent of Gen-Y admitted to some form of water wastage - 56 percent left the tap running while cleaning teeth and 40 percent had the shower running for a few minutes before getting in.  A typical two minute teeth-cleaning session wastes approximately 12 litres of water1, amounting to 236.8 million litres of water wasted across the nation for just one cleaning session a day per week.

Jon Z Bentley, Energy & Environment Partner, IBM Global Business Services, said:  "The good news is that Generation Y is showing clear concern for environmental issues.  The not-so-good news is that far too few are taking even simple, small steps to control their own wasteful use of resources.  This is important not just because of the difference this generation can make today.   Climate change and the need to be careful in our use of energy, water and other natural resources are not transient issues.  They will be with us for the next 40 years and beyond.

“We now have the ability to think and act in new ways, to spot wastage and inefficiency by bringing a new level of intelligence to how the world works.  We can effectively sense what is going on around us through connecting the billions of sensors already out there with the growth in computing power and the connectivity we now have to make better decisions. Generation Y are the leaders, consumers and educators of the future.  The ability is there to act now so they can sustain and accelerate the changes that we must all bring about quickly.

The survey found water wastage is high in Great Britain, with ‘running the tap whilst cleaning teeth’ being the most common water wasting activity.  In total, the average GB adult wasted 277 litres of water in just the first week of June 2009, enough to meet the daily fluid intake requirement2 of 230 adults in the UK to prevent dehydration, or sufficient to fill three and half baths3 .  This equates to 1.8 billion litres of wasted water across the nation per day or 70 litres per household per day and an additional £77 a year on the average water bill.  

There are significant variations from respondents between regions about stated levels of water wastage.  Scotland at (71 percent) was the region with the highest  water wastage in early June 2009 followed by;Yorkshire & Humberside (67 percent)West Midlands (67 percent) North East (65 percent).  In comparison, in Wales and Eastern England, less than half of those questioned stated they wasted water.


2014 adults aged 18+ were interviewed as part of an online omnibus survey hosted by ICM Research.  Fieldwork took place from 5th to 7th June 2009. During the omnibus research process, questions are posed to a panel of consumers and data is collected until various pre-defined sampling quotas are reached.  The sample is then demographically weighted to make it representative of the GB population aged 18+ to overcome any sampling deficiencies and / or Internet bias.

Water wastage figures are based on information from Waterwise and use 2008 Census population data.  The figures are extrapolated to the proportion of the population that wasted water in a particular way during the first week of June.

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About IBM

More about IBM’s vision to bring a new level of intelligence to how the world works—how every person, business, organization, government, natural system, and man-made system interacts, can be found here: and more about smarter energy management can be found here:

Notes to editors:

Additional information
The most common water wasting activity in Great Britain at this time was to leave the tap running whilst cleaning teeth, with 43 percent of the adult population doing this at least once during the week.  

According to Waterwise4, this activity wastes approximately 12 litres of water for a typical two-minute teeth cleaning session.  If this is extrapolated to the whole population for just 1 cleaning session a day during that week, this equates to 236,792,400 litres of wasted water [Table 1].  As people tend to have set ways of carrying out such mundane and routine tasks, this could justifiably be multiplied by 7 for each day of the week and then doubled to represent a morning and evening brushing session.  

The survey found,  following Gen-Y (56 percent), for leaving the tap running whilst cleaning teeth, were women overall (45%), and then those living in Scotland (56 percent), Yorkshire & Humberside (50 percent) and the West Midlands (53 percent).  

Table 1: National water wastage in a 1-week period according to IBM survey. 

    Activity                 GB National wastage –per week                          
Forgotten about the sprinkler in the garden and left it on for half an hour longer than intended      10,875,930,000 litres
Put half a load of washing on a full load cycle     275,340,000 litres
Left the shower running for a few minutes before getting in it     1,040,785,200 litres
Left a tap dripping for 24 hours     18,723,120 litres
Left the tap running whilst cleaning teeth     236,792,400 litres

Awareness of energy consumption

It seems smart metering will help consumers significantly, as this research shows there are low levels of awareness about household energy consumption in some sections of society.  This is especially pronounced among the apparently environmentally conscious 18-24 year olds (55 percent), but surprisingly, among men too (46 percent).  When given a list of household electrical appliances and asked which has the capacity to use the most energy, 43 percent of GB consumers got it wrong.  

In contrast, more women (60 percent) correctly identified that the tumble dryer5 uses more energy than the kettle, TV, fridge, hairdryer, hoover, stereo / hi-fi or an overhead single standard non-energy-saving light bulb.  Furthermore, 1 in 4 men (24 percent) think the kettle uses more energy than a tumble dryer, compared to just 14 percent of women.

Around the country, lack of awareness about household energy consumption is especially high in London (49 percent) and the SE (50 percent), whereas consumers in Yorkshire & Humberside (37 percent), Wales (32 percent), the SW (36 percent) and the East Midlands (36 percent) are overall more savvy in this respect.
2 The UK Food Standards Agency recommends: "In climates such as the UK, we should drink approximately 1.2 litres (6 to 8 glasses) of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated. In hotter climates the body needs more than this.” (
3 A bath typically uses around 80 litres of water, according to Waterwise (
4  Source: Waterwise:
5  Source: Energy consumption figures sourced from a website called “Change”, hosted by the European Commission:

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