Boomers are energy hoggers?

According to BC Hydro, a Canadian utility company operating in the province of British Columbia which I call home, baby boomers use double the electricity millennials do.

For energy-conscious boomers like myself, the headline was shocking and became somewhat personal. Eager to vindicate oneself, I read the rest of the article with heightened senses and expanded awareness.

“What’s the reason for Boomers using more electricity? Larger homes, more appliances, and luxury amenities, paired with worse energy-consumption habits. They’re also (infinitely) more likely to have a secondary property.”

Larger homes

The BC Hydro study cites that, in the province of British Columbia, Canada, boomers live in homes that are on average twice as large as those of millennials.

The larger the home, the bigger its energy footprint.

Housing options vary from country to country, even from city to city. In Canada and the US, most people live in single-unit detached houses or multi-unit dwellings such as condominiums.

If you are a baby boomer, your biggest lifetime investment is probably your house which you bought many years ago and since paid off. That house was where you raised the children, made wonderful memories, and kept the mementos. To many, moving to a different home may feel like ripping out a part of their history, their identity, their being. My parents stayed in their detached house until a bad fall on the stairs left them with no option but to move to a seniors’ home.

Loss of independence is another consideration affecting a boomer’s decision of whether to downsize. Typically, when you move out of your suburban house, you tend to look for an apartment unit that is more transit-friendly and closer to various facilities such as shops and medical offices. The fear of no longer able to keep a car (or need one) and the resultant loss of independence lurks in the back of one’s mind.

Some boomers simply cannot downsize because of the modern-day social phenomenon known as the crowded nest syndrome. Specifically, adult children are staying longer or moving back to their parents’ home. In jargon-speak, the children are the so-called incompletely-launched young adults or ILYAs. A ‘crowded nest‘ entails major adjustments by both boomers and their ILYAs, and I hope to address it in a future blog post.

Suffice to say that if we have the option of downsizing, we should seriously consider going for it. Safety issues aside, house maintenance won’t get easier with age. Furthermore, if traveling is a goal, then condo living allows you to be absent for a longer period of time.

If I had learned anything from my parents’ experience, it is that I would plan and hence time my own downsizing process rather than had it forced on me by unfortunate and unforeseen circumstances.

Another interesting observation is that boomers are ‘(infinitely) more likely to have a secondary property’. I interpret ‘secondary’ to include recreational real estate properties, such as a cabin/cottage.

Boomers lived through the pre-Airbnb era. Unless they opted to travel in motorhomes (recreational vehicles) or to stay in a hotel, owning a cabin/cottage was the dream and the goal for many boomers.

Nowadays, the rise of Airbnb has disrupted the traditional way of thinking about travel accommodation. While Airbnb is not 100% risk-free, neither is direct property ownership. I believe that boomers will weigh the risks, and come around and embrace Airbnb.

Appliances & Amenities

Do baby boomers own more power-hungry appliances and live with more eco-unfriendly home amenities than millennials?

Household amenities like hot tubs, backyard swimming pools used to be signs to boomers that they’d made it. For millennials, they’d rather join a health club or spa which features those amenities than to own them outright.

Next, home appliances. I argue that boomers don’t necessarily have more appliances than millennials, just different ones.

I have to confess that I own some power-hungry appliances that are simply unthinkable for millennials. Case in point, a chest freezer. This freezer is a hand-me-down item, and it is very durable. I doubt I’d buy another one when the freezer I have stops working one day. Eventually, all things break down, don’t they? But, as of today, it is still humming along.

While microwaves and toaster ovens have been around for ages, boomers still favor using the traditional oven, one of the highest energy-consuming appliances, for cooking.

Boomers are playing catch-up with millennials in the use of smart energy-efficient appliances. Give us time, I say, and we can level up.

My household has graduated to cooking using toaster ovens and even Instant Pots. The use of the traditional oven is almost exclusively used for baking only.

Energy habits

Vancouver, the city I call home, is blessed with a top-ranked public transit system, multiple car-share and bike-share programs, and supporting public infrastructure such as electric vehicle charging stations and bike-only lanes. (Uber is coming soon too).

Yet, many boomers including myself still prefer owning personal gasoline-powered vehicles, in spite of the recent recording-setting gasoline prices in Vancouver.

Driving, like cooking, is a habit. If oven-cooking is your thing, it won’t be easy to convince you to switch to using the Instant Pot. Similarly, if you have always driven a gasoline-powered vehicle, switching to an electric car for your next purchase may not even cross your mind. A millennial, on the other hand, may go one step further and question why anyone would purchase a car when they can car-share.

Science and economics alone won’t convince us to change our behavior. Guilt trips may succeed to a certain degree, but the change is often short-lived. Ultimately, a lasting change will come about if we truly want it—when it is internalized.

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