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A New Generation of Gardeners: Gen Z on creating sustainability in their back garden

A piece by Alexis Crafts

It’s no question that Gen Z is in favour of sustainability, but what about gardening? Is the future generation interested in digging in the dirt and growing their own harvests? According to surveys and interviews, Gen Z might be more interested in gardening than people may have originally thought.

Gardening is a generational hobby, but as the popularity of city living grew, the practice of gardening decreased. Over the years, gardening has been pushed aside because of the lack of space, resources, and general popularity. Gen Z is now changing the gardening game. As a generation, many are concerned about climate change, sustainability, and environmentally-damaging trends like fast fashion.

In recent years, having houseplants has been transformed into a “cool trend.” Often you’ll walk into a store and find plant-themed stationery, clothes, home decor, and more. Especially for young girls and women, businesses have been taking advantage of the cute and cool houseplant trend. Although gardening isn’t quite as popular, its houseplant cousins are inviting more people to garden.

The fun new trend of having house plants combined with the concern for sustainability created the perfect combination of garden-loving people. According to a 2020 CivicScience poll, 21% of Gen Z-ers own houseplants because they like to take care of something alive, compared to 9-11% of older generations. Multiple sources point out that Millennial and Gen Z’s love for nature also stems from a place of control. Simply watering a plant every morning adds consistency and assurance that they are personally making a difference. Taking care of indoor plants has also been known to improve air quality and reduce stress, which is a negative aspect Gen Z-ers are known for being burdened with.

One article from “The Garden Center Show” talks about the perspective of businesses: how garden centres can market to Gen Z gardeners. Although it may seem like from the endless amount of #plantsofinstagram photos that Gen Z is irresponsibly buying, that’s not quite the case. It’s reported that Millenials and Gen Z individuals are actually more frugal than older generations. It may seem like they’re spending a lot of cash and will splurge on any plant, it’s more likely that they’ll be considering the price.

Gen Z is much more likely than the previous generations to research before they buy, including finding the best deal. That also applies to buying plants. This is likely for a few reasons. This generation has seen their parents live through financial insecurities such as the Great Recession and even have grandparents who lived through the Great Depression. It’s no wonder how with families like this that Gen Z finds creative ways to save money. Also, Gen Z has been buying second-hand, refurbishing, using coupons, and even creating their own small businesses more than previous generations. Some members of Gen Z have seen their parents become wasteful with their money, and they don’t want to fall into the same traps.

In one interview with a university-aged gardener named Emma McCoy, she says she’d love to pass down the gardening tradition. “[Gardening] It's something I want to pass on to my kids one day. I have really fond memories of digging trenches, harvesting carrots, and building trestles for the tomatoes. It's a great family activity.” Although she doesn’t have a place to garden at her university, she’d love the opportunity to have a big, luscious garden in the future.

McCoy is not alone. Many Gen Z teens and young adults inherit their love of gardening from their parents— similar to many other generations. But, there are brand new gardeners who are experimenting with a garden for the very first time. The pandemic has aided in the gardening boom, leaving garden supplies scarce for the third year in a row. The pandemic has impacted everyone, but this generation had to bulldoze ahead through their high school and college days during Covid. Gardening was a way for them to distract themselves from the pandemic, and the lack of work-life balance with everything happening at home. It was a much-needed break across all generations to get outside and get away from being indoors.

Social media and endless amounts of plant-themed YouTube videos and Instagram photos lead us to have hope for the new generation of gardeners. Even for those who have no one to guide them in having a thriving garden, social media has helped them learn the basics. Simply googling how to grow vegetables results in thousands of results and hundreds of Youtube tutorials to choose from. Gardening isn’t an easy hobby and requires a lot of research, experimentation, and motivation to keep up with the garden all summer long. Thankfully, we’re in an age where learning how to garden is much simpler and there are more places to find inspiration.

Gen Z is taking advantage of the social media hype and stress-relieving planting. They’re making sustainability—and therefore gardening— cool and fun. There is no doubt that gardening will continue to increase in popularity among Gen Z with the help of social media. Despite being known as a generation glued to their phone indoors, there’s a growing group of nature-lovers. As the Gen Z generation continues to become new adults, it will be interesting to see the changes in sustainability from these nature lovers. As we settle into the post-pandemic, we are left to wonder if gardening will remain as popular as it was.


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