Millennial Paper Usage and Attitudes
By TRU, a division of TNS Research Global
"Despite preconceptions of the new digital age youth -- labeled ‘millennials' -- many are deeply connected through social media websites, text messaging and email, yet also prefer paper for basic personal and business communications. Paper consumption among this group of teens and young adults increases with age and employment."
Date released: March 2011
Material/Activity Tested: Understanding the role of paper in the lives of U.S. Millennials (ages 16-26):
- Understand current paper usage
- Explore the digital transition
- Understand Millennials’attitudes toward paper
Gauge Millennials’ attitudes and behaviors toward sustainability.
Methodology: Online interviews with 600 young U.S. adults ages 16-26. Two hundred interviews each with age groups 16-18, 19-22, and 23-26. Each of the three groups had equal number male and female participants. Eighty-eight percent were single. Sixty percent employed, 56% students, 25% both work and go to school.
Millennials are highly engaged with social media: 92% have a social profile with close to 400 "friends," send and receive 92 texts a day and 24 emails.
Millennials' digital format use of traditional paper documents: 79% receive electronic bank statements, 67% use digital coupons, 61% say they read newspapers online.
Millennials believe that documents in digital formats are:
- More environmentally friendly (92%)
- More up-to-date (91%)
Easier to keep track of (76%).
Millennials paper use: Respondents report an average use of 65 sheets of paper per week, with 26 for printing and 15 for writing. They send and receive 4 pieces of paper mail a day.
Unsurprisingly, paper consumption increases with age, employment: 16-18 years olds self-report using an average of 41 pieces of paper a week, 19-22 year olds use 57 pieces of paper and 23-26 year old millennials say they use 97 pieces a week. Employed millennials report higher paper use than non-employed.
Millennial attitudes regarding environmental impact in terms of waste and litter:
- Very concerned about paper consumption's impact on the environment (65%); 59% are very concerned about technology’s impact on the environment
- Making an effort to reduce paper consumption (67%)
- 55% say paper consumption is NOT harmful to the environment if you recycle
Strive to be paperless (31%).
They expect paper companies to make similar reduction efforts and to promote recycling.
- Half (50%) believe that paper companies are doing a good job of preserving resources
Eight out of 10 (83%) say that paper companies need to do more.
Millennials have a powerful attachment to paper.
- Eight out of 10 (78%) say they can't imagine their lives without paper
Nine out of 10(89%) say that despite today's technological advances, they doubt they will ever give up paper completely.
Paper equals trust. Compared to digital documents, it is seen as more official (88%), more trusted (82%), easier to keep confidential (78%), and safer/more secure (74%). In addition:
- 77% say documents are less trustworthy in digital format since they can be altered without your knowledge
- 90% prefer to have hard copies of important documents
63% often print out documents for their records, even if they have them saved electronically.
Millennials' thought on paper and the eyes: 65% say, "It is easier for me to view or read something on paper that to read it on a computer screen or dome other tech device."
Preference for paper over digital: Books (78%), magazines (71%) and newspapers (52%).
Perhaps the most powerful attachment to paper is emotional. If forced to choose the majority would rather receive: a birthday card in the mail than via email (87%), a mailed invitation than an evite (57%), and a handwritten letter than an email (55%).
Take-Away: In discussing millennials, TRU research director Kristi Sarmiento is quoted as telling the audience at Paper 2011, "They are highly engaged and highly active," and that "They are living in a digital world." Yet, "Paper continues to play a significant role. There is a place for paper in their lives."
"Technology is the first language of millennials. Sustainability is at the top of their minds. They are not letting go of paper. They are not forced to choose." She urged the Paper2011 audience to provide a leadership voice on sustainability, to align with the same values, and "build on the emotional attachment to paper."
Complexity rating of original source: 1 (Complex statistical analysis scale: 1= none, 2= moderate, 3 = difficult)
Source: TRU, Millennial Paper Usage and Attitudes, presented at Paper2011 sponsored by the American Forest & Paper Assn and the National Paper Trade Alliance, March 2011.