Welcome back to campus, Union Students!! And pat yourselves on the back. The next time someone (an adult, a parent, or even a professor) spouts the cliche about your generation being self-centered, individualistic, or materialistic, tell them that's not necessarily true.
I mean, think about it: You've entered College and/or are on the cusp of entering a world of bleak economic opportunities and unprecedented environmental challenges. It would be entirely reasonable for this generation to have a "to hell with it" attitude and double-down on selfishness. But that's not the case.
According to a study in Social Psychological and Personality Science and summarized in the excellent Conservation Magazine (seriously, you should subscribe), today's teenagers are more altruistic, more community-minded, and yes, greener than previous generations of teenagers. The study compared answers to similar questions posed in three time periods: 1976-1978, 2004-2006, and 2008-2010. The answers tended to become more selfish from the first to the second time period; but the 2008-2010 teenagers reversed this trend and became more willing to sacrifice on behalf of others, and cared more about the environment.
The researchers concluded that the Great Recession was responsible for the change. That's pretty amazing - today's teens are victims of economic and environmental crises that are almost completely out of their hands, yet they respond in community-minded fashion.
There are other measures that today's teens and 20ish year-olds can show us how it is done. Car ownership in that age group is dropping fast, This is occurring alongside other trends across the demographic spectrum including the rise of vegetarianism and veganism and increasing consideration of environmental impacts when making purchases.
So pat yourselves on the back. It is as true today as when The Who first sang it almost 50 years ago - The Kids Are Alright.