I swapped out 'millennials' in headlines for something better. It made a huge difference.

Ah, millennials...

At once destroyers of worlds and lazy slackers who won't move out of our parents' houses, we're all-purpose punching bags for society at large.

We're also ferocious killers. Did you know that we're responsible for the death of consumerism, the American Dream, Applebee's, marriage, boobs, beer, home ownership, the oil industry, and the future of humanity itself? Not bad, right? With so many contradictions, we're what Winston Churchill might have described as a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."


With no clear start and no clear end, the term "millennial" has mostly become a stand-in for "youths" in angry "kids these days"-style news stories.

There's just one major problem: We're not kids.

Pew Research defines a millennial as anyone born between the years 1981 and 1996. In 2018, that's most everyone age 21 to 37.

Other sources might have slightly different start and end dates for the qualifying range, but the point is, we're not pre-teens. And yet, the way the label of millennial is used, it certainly gives that impression.

"Have millennials killed the political primary system?" JK JK JK this is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrating her primary victory in New York's 14th congressional district. Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images.

When AL.com asked readers if we should elect more millennials to Congress, responses demonstrated just how much people misunderstand what the term means.

While those in favor of more millennials in Congress mentioned the benefits of having more diverse representation, those opposed clung to tired and factually inaccurate stereotypes.

"No! F--- no! Not until they get some life experiences! If this past presidential election taught you anything, it should've taught you millennials don't have life experiences to know how to vote. Living off of your parents doesn't give you life experiences," wrote one Twitter user.

(According to Pew Research, only 13% of people aged 30-34 live with a parent.)

"Until you are working on your own, off your parents health insurance, and paying real taxes I don't think you should be able to to be elected to Congress," wrote another.

(Parental health care expires at age 26, and anyone whose income meets a certain minimum must pay taxes regardless of age.)

"Not until they learn personal responsibility at least," wrote a third.

In all three of these examples, it's clear respondents don't have an accurate demographic understanding of what a millennial is.

Author Summer Brennan came up with a really interesting idea aimed at getting people to accurately understand the term "millennial."

Every time you see a headline that mentions "millennials," she suggests, consider whether it'd sound any more ridiculous if you replaced it with "adults under 40." In the examples above, for instance, the implication that adults under 40 don't have their own health care, pay taxes, or have any life experience sounds a little absurd.

Your reaction to the experiment might help determine whether or not you're viewing "millennial" as a group of young- to middle-aged adults with diverse views and experiences or as a buzzword loaded with years of negative press. (And yes, yes, I know, Pew's classification puts the cap on millennials at 37, not 40, but as I said, this can vary.)

Let's take a look at what a few other "millennial" headlines would look like if we used Brennan's trick. Do they seem a little silly?

The Economist recently asked why millennials weren't buying diamonds. Think about it rationally, and you'll realize it could have something to do with the fact that we entered the workforce at roughly the same time that the entire economy was in total free fall and haven't really recovered.

When you swap the headline to read "adults under 40," this becomes much more clear:

GIF via The Economist/Twitter.

Inc. put together an explainer for people trying to understand why millennials are so "entitled." Swap in "adults under 40," and suddenly that headline just looks poorly thought out.

GIF via Inc./Twitter.

The Guardian told its readers that La Croix sparkling water was virtually a religion to millennials. Reframing that headline reveals it to be an odd, unfounded claim.

GIF via The Guardian/Twitter.

This thought exercise can be applied to all sorts of issues, not just debates about whether millennials are the worst.

The way we frame conversation plays a big role in how we view the world. If specific words and phrases didn't have the power to change minds, marketing firms would have no reason to exist.

For instance: In 2009, political strategist Frank Luntz wrote a memo encouraging Republican members of Congress to change their vocabulary in order to derail Democrats' efforts to pass health care legislation. Luntz found that the public generally favored health care reform, so in order for Republicans to successfully oppose it, he urged them to instead refer to health care reform as the "Washington takeover" of America's health system.

While the Democrats' law was eventually passed, Luntz's rhetoric generated a lot of confusion around the health care debate that year. That confusion made it a political liability for Democrats and ultimately led to a thrashing during the 2010 midterm elections.

Frank Luntz in 2009. Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival.

The same concept applies to the immigration debate. When you replace innocuous terms like "undocumented immigrant," "asylum-seeker," or "refugee" with far more loaded words like "illegal immigrants" or the even more dehumanizing "illegals," the debate shifts again. As pundits switch out adjectives for buzzwords, it becomes harder to remember that these discussions are about actual human beings.

The "millennials" vs. "adults under 40" trick is a doorway to untangling a lot of the learned rhetoric we've been taught to use on a number of issues.

Next time you read a story that evokes a powerful emotion, take a deep breath and mentally swap out buzzwords to see if you still feel the same.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


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Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

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Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

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All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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There's more to keeping a green kitchen than recycling your yogurt containers or opting to store your leftovers in glass Tupperware. Little things, like your trash bags, can add up, which is why it's important to try to reduce your footprint as much as possible. Fortunately, these sustainable kitchen products make it easy keep a green home!

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Reusable silicone cupcake liners save you money on having to buy disposable paper cupcake wrappers every time you bake. These sustainable cupcake liners are just as festive as anything you would throw away. Because the liners are made with a sturdier silicone, they can be used for other purposes, like arts and crafts projects.

Amazon Basics, $7.99 for a pack of 12; Amazon

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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

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In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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I wrestle with that thought, considering the conversation I recently had with Ben Lesser, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor who was just a little younger than my son when he witnessed his first Nazi atrocity.

It was September of 1939 and the Blitzkrieg occupation of Poland had just begun. Ben, his parents, and his siblings were awakened in their Krakow apartment by Nazi soldiers who pistol-whipped them out of bed and ransacked their home. As the men with the shiny black boots filled burlap sacks with the Jewish family's valuables, a scream came from the apartment across the hall. Ben and his sister ran toward the cry.

They found a Nazi swinging their neighbors' baby upside down by its legs, demanding that the baby's mother make it stop crying. As the parents screamed, "My baby! My baby!" the Nazi smirked—then swung the baby's head full force into the door frame, killing it instantly.

This story and others like it feel too terrible to tell my young son, too out of context from his life of relative safety and security. And yet Ben Lesser lived it at my son's age. And it was too terrible—for anyone, much less a 10-year-old. And it was also completely out of context from the life of relative safety and security Ben and his family had known before the Nazi tanks rolled in.

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