Will consumers decide that buying less is better than buying ‘green’?
A new university study finds that people who consume less are happier than those who engage in other pro-environmental consumer behaviors, like buying environmentally friendly products.
In the study, published in the journal, Young Consumers, University of Arizona researcher Sabrina Helm and her collaborators explored how culturally entrenched materialistic values influence pro-environmental behaviors in Millennials.
The study focused on two main categories of pro-environmental behavior:
- Reduced consumption, which includes actions like repairing instead of replacing older items, avoiding impulse purchases and not buying unnecessary items;
- “Green buying” or purchasing products designed to limit environmental impacts, such as goods made from recycled materials.
Researchers essentially found two outcomes, depending on the degree to which individuals are materialistic.
More materialistic participants in the study were found to be unlikely to engage in reduced consumption. However, materialism did not seem to have an effect on their likelihood of practicing “green buying.” Researchers concluded that’s probably because “green buying,” unlike reduced consumption, still offers a way for materialists to fulfill their desire to accumulate new items.
One downside is that, while these “green materialists” were open to purchasing eco-friendly products, reduced consumption “is more novel and probably more important from a sustainability perspective.”
On the other hand, study participants who reported having lesser materialistic tendencies were much more likely to engage in reduced consumption. Consuming less was, in turn, linked to higher personal well-being and lower psychological distress. The study found no similar psychological benefit from green consumption.
Researchers concluded the buying less “make us more satisfied and happier” because it alters an individual’s lifestyle.
“It’s not like you buy it and you’re done with it,” Ms. Helm said in a statement. “There’s a lot of burdens of ownership, and if you relieve yourself of that burden of ownership, most people report feeling a lot better and freer.”
The study comes as the rental market, pioneered by Rent the Runway, has become a major trend in fashion. Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, Banana Republic, Bloomingdale’s and Express have all rolled out rental options. Patagonia and REI are among the few retailers calling for responsible consumption.
- Buying Less is Better Than Buying ‘Green’ … for the Planet and Your Happiness – University of Arizona
- Patagonia Promotes ‘Responsible Economy’ – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is responsible consumption more of an opportunity or threat to retail? Do you see mainstream retailers receiving any benefit from discouraging consumption?