Consumers and the environment

Thinking habits into action: the role of knowledge and process in questioning household consumption practices


Hobson K. 2003. Local Environment 8(1): 95-112.


This paper explores the role of individuals in achieving sustainable development, namely through sustainable consumption practices. This paper explores potential reasons for a lack of uptake of public messages about sustainable consumption and lifestyles. To evidence these ideas, Hobson draws on her research conducted in the UK as part of a sustainable behaviour change programme called ‘Action at Home’.




What we buy, what we throw away and how we use our voice: sustainable household waste management in the UK


Barr S. 2004. Sustainable Development 12: 32-44.


This paper discusses how a range of different attitudes and actions can influence sustainable consumption behaviours, particularly towards waste management. Using data derived from a study of attitudes towards waste management and subsequent behaviour change, carried out in southwest England, the paper puts forward the case for a conceptual framework for understanding consumer behaviour towards sustainable development.




Consumers, Policy and the Environment: A Tribute to Folke Ölander


Grunert K. G. Thøgersen J. and Ölander F. 2005. New York: Springer Science+Business Media Inc.

Book preview available here.


The role of the consumer has changed from seeking the most satisfaction from goods and services to reconciling consumption with active citizenship, which links consumption to modern social issues such as environmental protection, sound business ethics, and fair working conditions.

Understanding consumers - the way they buy products, the way they relate to questions of environmental importance, and the way they participate in public policy formulation processes - is of vital importance to modern society.

In this book, eminent researchers examine contemporary issues related to the field of consumers, policy, and the environment. (Grunert, Thøgersen and Ölander, 2005)




Shopping for sustainability: can sustainable consumption promote ecological citizenship?


Seyfang G. 2005. Environmental Politics 14(2): 290-306.


This paper explores the relationship between sustainable consumption and ecological citizenship, and whether the two are complimentary. This includes an overview of sustainable consumption academic debates and policy objectives, followed by a discussion of how sustainable consumption can be used to achieve ecological citizenship and the policy implications of this approach.




Bins, bulbs, and shower timers: on the ‘techno-cthics’ of sustainable living


Hobson K. 2006. Ethics, Place and Environment 9(3): 317-336.


This paper fleshes out the concept of sustainable citizens, through the use of qualitative research conducted in Sydney, Australia. The paper explores the everyday environmental ethics in practice, exploring the social relationships people have with the materials that they use within their domestic environments.




Beyond recycling: ‘commons-friendly’ waste reduction at new consumption communities


Bekin C. Carrigan M. and Szmigin I. 2007. Journal of Consumer Behaviour 6: 271-286.


Exploring waste and disposal behaviour in the UK, this paper uses ethnographic research in six voluntary simplifier communities. In these six cases, it is shown how the behaviours and practices exhibited by consumers might be usefully employed at a larger scale, with possible implications for marketing and policy making.




Ecological consumer behaviour: an empirical analysis.


Fraj E. and Martinez E. 2007. International Journal of Consumer Studies 31(1): 26-33.


Increasingly, consumers choose ecological products when they do the shopping, not only  because it is a healthier option but also because it helps to sustain the environment for future generations.

They are prepared to switch products for ecological reasons and stop buying products from companies that cause pollution. Firms and other economic institutions are aware of the importance of reflecting these attitudes towards the environment in developing their products.

This paper is focused on environmental attitudes as meaningful predictor of ecological behaviour. A three-dimensional approach to this variable has been developed, which addresses its emotional, cognitive and conative components.

A random sample survey of 573 individuals was used to verify the conceptual model and framework. This model was assessed initially by principal factor analysis and subsequently, by structural equation modelling. Findings of this study showed that environmental attitudes have a significant effect on ecological behaviour.

This research improves our understanding of how consumers feel and what attitudes best define their way of behaving in relation to environmental problems.(Fraj and Martinez, 2007 p.26)




Carbon offsetting: sustaining consumption?


Lovell H. Bulkeley H. and Liverman D. 2009. Environment and Planning A 41: 2357-2379.


This paper examines carbon offsetting as a growing consumer product and market, using theories of sustainable and ethical consumption. The authors draw on secondary and primary sources to investigate this relatively new area of alternative consumption, and assess the future of carbon the offsetting industry.




Morality and climate change: is leaving your TV on standby a risky behaviour?


Butler C. 2010. Environmental Values 19: 169-192.


Using UK-based qualitative research with consumers, this paper discusses the relationship between risk and morality within consumption choices. The focus of the paper is around lay discourses of climate change and household consumption, and how consumers interact with public discourses surrounding climate change mitigation.




Sustainable consumption: developments, considerations and new directions


Hinton E. D. and Goodman M. K. 2010. in Redclift M. and Woodgate G. (Eds) The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology.  Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. pp 245-261.


This book chapter looks at the developments surrounding Sustainable Consumption, with a review of recent policies, as well as the role of information, feelings of responsibility and new discourses of sustainable consumption. The chapter also discusses notions of sustainable consumption in the face of the recent economic recession, and what this means for consuming sustainably.




Practice-ing behaviour change: applying social practice theory to pro-environmental behaviour change


Hargreaves T. 2011. Journal of Consumer Culture 11(1): 79-99.


This article applies the insights of social practice theory to the study of pro-environmental behaviour change through an ethnographic case study (nine months of participant observation and 38 semi-structured interviews) of a behaviour change initiative - Environment Champions - that occurred in a workplace. By considering the planning and delivery of the Environment Champions initiative, the article suggests that practice theory provides a more holistic and grounded perspective on behaviour change processes as they occur in situ. In so doing, it offers up a wide range of mundane footholds for behavioural change, over and above individuals' attitudes or values. At the same time, it reveals the profound difficulties encountered in attempts to challenge and change practices, difficulties that extend far beyond the removal of contextual 'barriers' to change and instead implicate the organization of normal everyday life.




Mindful consumption: a customer-centric approach to sustainability


Sheth J. N. Sethia N. K. and Srinivas S. 2011. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 39(1): 21-39.


How effectively business deals with the challenges of sustainability will define its success for decades to come. Current sustainability strategies have three major deficiencies: they do not directly focus on the customer, they do not recognize the looming threats from rising global over-consumption, and they do not take a holistic approach. We present a framework for a customer-centric approach to sustainability. This approach recasts the sustainability metric to emphasize the outcomes of business actions measured holistically in term of environmental, personal and economic well-being of the consumer. We introduce the concept of mindful consumption (MC) as the guiding principle in this approach. MC is premised on a consumer mindset of caring for self, for community, and for nature, that translates behaviorally into tempering the self-defeating excesses associated with acquisitive, repetitive and aspirational consumption. We also make the business case for fostering mindful consumption, and illustrate how the marketing function can be harnessed to successfully implement the customer-centric approach to sustainability.




Interpersonal influence within car buyers' social networks: applying five perspectives to plug-in hybrid vehicle drivers


Axsen J. and Kurani K. S. 2012. Environment and Planning A 44(5): 1047-1065.


Although interpersonal influence is thought to play in important role in proenvironmental consumption behavior, mechanisms of influence are not well understood. Through literature review, we identify five theoretical perspectives on interpersonal influence: contagion, conformity, dissemination, translation, and reflexivity. We apply these perspectives to car buyer perceptions of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), a technology with attributes that can be perceived as functional, symbolic, private, and societal. Utilizing these differing perspectives facilitated observation that participants are more amenable to developing new, prosocietal interpretations of PHEVs if they: (i) easily form a basic functional understanding of PHEV technology, (ii) are in a transitional state in their lifestyle practices, and (iii) find supportive prosocietal values within their social network.




Smart homes as a means to sustainable energy consumption: a study of consumer perceptions


Paetz A.-G. Dutschke E. and Fichtner W. 2012. Journal of Consumer Policy 35(1): 23-41.


European and national policies are aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and increasing energy efficiency-also in the household sector. For this purpose, new solutions for private homes based on information and communication technologies (ICT) are being developed and tested. However, up to now, hardly anyone has seen, experienced or lived in an environment that offers the full range of ICT-based energy management solutions. In this study, consumer reactions to a fully furnished and equipped smart home are analysed using focus groups (four groups with a total of 29 participants). In general, there were positive group reactions to the smart home environment. Consumers saw many advantages for themselves; especially the chance to save money. However, giving up high levels of flexibility and adapting everyday routines to fit in with electricity tariffs were regarded as difficult. Smart appliances and smart meters were therefore considered to be necessary elements by most participants.