Does the Eco Gender Gap Exist? Why is Environmentalism Perceived as Feminine?
Updated: Sep 30
Women have been fighting for gender equality for decades, when it comes to raising environmental awareness, the fight is no different. We’d like to think that we’re all doing our fair share in caring for the planet but in reality, it’s not the case according to a study in 2018 by British market intelligence agency, Mintel. The study examined the differences between men and women and their connection to environmental issues and eco-friendly behaviour - the former being less inclined to work towards a greener future. They coined it as the ‘Eco Gender Gap:’ the disparity between the ethical choices made by men and women.
This is exemplified by the number of women who choose to use shampoo and conditioner bars instead of bottled products, who purchase organically grown produce and opt for sustainably sourced goods compared to men. Even the ratio of women to men when it comes to the consumption of meat is evident. Also, the most influential people who champion the environment are young women, such as Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocacio-Ortez. It’s almost as if women are designated the role of caregivers of the planet.
WHY DOES IT EXIST?
Jack Duckett, the Senior Consumer Analyst at Mintel, said that their research reflected the fact that up until now, women spend more time than men on domestic duties. As a result, the decision-making on which household products to use falls under women’s tasks.
Based on a 2015 General Social Survey, “Women aged 25 to 54 spent an average of 3.9 hours per day on unpaid work–1.5 more than men (2.4 hours),”
Women feel responsible for making eco-conscious choices, despite the additional time and work required to make them. Although this is the norm, it doesn’t have to be; we can all take part in being more proactive in incorporating greener practices.
Another reason that Duckett considered is that “There is also a wider disconnect between men and environmental issues, which, more troublingly, could be due to men feeling that caring for the environment somehow undermines their masculinity”. It was pointed out by Aaron Brough and his peers in a 2016 research: Is Eco-Friendly Unmanly? The Green-Feminine Stereotype and its Effect on Consumption, that there is a stereotype that ties green behaviour with femininity. It backs up their prior findings that men are more conscious of conserving their gender identity compared to women. Men think that choosing eco-friendly options, like carrying a reusable bag at the groceries and being vegan, makes them look feminine.
As a result, women are the target of sustainable marketing efforts as the dialogue in ethical living is led by women. Most brands tend to use designs and offer products that appeal more to women, resulting in a scarcity of choices for men. In the same study, Brough and his peers suggested a resolution to incorporate masculinity in communications regarding environmentalism. Having a skincare routine, doing yoga, and having a reusable water bottle isn’t exclusively for women. There are a lot of men who do these things too. The study believes that proper branding and positioning would steer men in the right direction.
CANADIAN BRANDS THAT ARE CHANGING THE GAME
Recognizing that sustainability isn’t just a journey for women, many Canadian brands have centred the conversation around inclusivity. Here are some local brands we absolutely love:
Chilliwack, British Columbia
All Things Being Eco is a one-stop-shop that’s 100% eco and fair. Alongside research, this brand does an ethical and natural test to every product before they put them on the shelf. It’s guaranteed that the products are fairtrade and organic as well as affordable. Housing hundreds of ethical brands, they fill needs from multiple niches – from kitchen refills, cleaning, novelty, to clothing. Men and women don't have to worry about product packaging designs that may not fit their style since they are minimal and gender-neutral. All Things Being Eco is confident that they are good for you, good for the economy, and good for the environment.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Anián offers timeless articles of clothing with the environment in mind. Garment and accessories are limited and gender-inclusive. The style and colour selection for menswear and womenswear are the same – the only difference is the sizes. Clothes are also made from 95% recycled neutral fibre textile saved from landfills. Steering away from the fast fashion trend, Anián aims to inspire consumers to dress responsibly; striving to fill closets, not landfills.
Kotn is a sustainable clothing and home brand that hopes to fill the gap in ethical clothing and home in the market. Wearables are basics and classics designed for every gender, such as the classic white tee. Kotn is confident that their pieces are made to last. Their fabrics are made from the finest natural fibres that are biodegradable. From planting to plastic-free delivery to your doorstep, Kotn ensures that everything they do is with utmost care for the environment. Giving back to the planet and communities is at the heart of their purpose. In 2018 and 2021, Kotn was named Best For The World Honoree in the community category: funding 10 and building 7 schools; working directly with 2, 390 farms as well. When you buy from them, you take part not just in helping the environment, but also in communities in Egypt.
4. Bon Vivant
Bon Vivant is an everyday menswear brand that’s ethically manufactured in established factories in Canada and Portugal. The phrase ‘bon vivant’ describes someone delighted to be living a good life, making ‘living well’ the brand’s philosophy. Passionate about travelling, cycling, and being outdoors – these became the inspiration behind the style and durability of Bon Vivant’s garments. The brand wants to provide more ethical clothing for men as this niche is underrepresented in today’s culture. The brand’s line of clothing is comfortable and easy-to-style, using fabrics that are only produced sustainably. Ensuring that they offer a quality standard of living to all the people that help them create clothes is essential in their living well philosophy.
5. 18 Waits
18 Waits is a menswear brand that promotes slow fashion. They design and craft clothes that will last through trends and seasons, and can be mixed effortlessly in a well-dressed man’s wardrobe. Despite specializing in menswear, you’ll also find graphic tees for women, as well as kids’ clothing under their brand, Hopper Hunter Kids. 100% Canadian, they take pride in using high-quality fabrics and local manufacturing. They want to support the local economy and provide continuous jobs for those in the skilled crafts industry. Part of the brand’s values is taking care of the people working for them, providing fair living wages and safe working conditions in all of their factories. One of the reasons for working closely with suppliers and manufacturers is to lessen their carbon footprint, instead of making transfers in long distances.
THE FUTURE IS GREEN
With Gen Z and millennials increasingly supporting brands that care about the environment, the future's looking brighter. Based on Asia Pulp & Paper Canada’s Attitudes Towards Sustainability Report, “Canadians, especially adults between the age of 18 and 34, clearly value brands that are invested in sustainability and it is encouraging to see the demand for high-quality eco-friendly products and packaging.” The data in the report showed that 49% of consumers believe that as individuals, they play an important role in making progress towards sustainability.
Being intentional about what we do and use is becoming a norm in households. By fighting with our buying power, businesses have started adopting greener practices to keep up with consumer demand. Shelves in grocery stores have more organic and fairtrade options, eco-friendly shops are on the rise, and people carrying reusables are no longer seen as being “hipster”. These changes are a sign that being eco-conscious is not just a trend.
“Environmental sustainability is no longer something that’s nice to have for organizations to be seen as socially responsible. Rather it’s an issue organizations must act on if they want to meet consumer demands. More and more, consumers are seeking local foods and products with a smaller ecological footprint,” says PwC Canada based on the data collected for their Canadian Consumer Insights Survey.
If we continue to encourage open conversations regarding environmentalism amongst all genders, we can make great strides in moving forward. Whether being green is pink, blue, or all the colours of the rainbow, saving the environment is a global discourse. What matters is our collective efforts in making a positive difference. This quote by the Zero Waste Chef, Anne Marie Bonneau, is an exceptional reminder when we feel overwhelmed in our journey to ethical living, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”