Green consumption

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Green consumption is closely related to the notions of sustainable development or sustainable consumer behaviour. It is a form of consumption that is compatible with the safeguard of the environment for the present and for the next generations. It is a concept which ascribes to consumers responsibility or co-responsibility for addressing environmental problems through the adoption of environmentally friendly behaviors, such as the use of organic products, clean and renewable energy and the research of goods produced by companies with zero, or almost zero, impact (zero waste, zero-emissions vehicle, zero-energy building, etc.).[1]

In Western societies, the idea of green consumption came about during the 1960s and the early 1970s, with the increased awareness of the necessity to protect the environment and people's health from the effects caused by industrial pollutants, as well as by continuous economic and population growth. In the 1980s, the first American "green" brands began to appear and exploded on the American market. During the 1990s, green products had a slow mild growth, remaining a niche phenomenon. American interest in green products started to increase again in the early 2000s with greater speed and, despite the latest recession, have continued to grow.[2]

Origin and development[edit]

The origin of the necessity to behave in an environmental-friendly way goes back to the 1960s and '70s. In particular, after the oil crisis of 1973, Western countries began to think about the use of renewable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. Nowadays green consumption is considered a basic point of environmental reform and it is also guaranteed by supra-national organizations like the European Union. Some sociologists argue that after the increasing globalization, people feel more interconnected with others and the environment, which led to an increasing awareness of global environmental problems, especially in western countries. The main forums in which the issue has been discussed, and provided guidelines to orient national governments are: Stockholm 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment; IUCN 1980 World Conservation Strategy; World Commission on Environment and Development in 1983 and 1987 Brundtland Report; Italy 1993 National Plan for Sustainable Development; Aalborg 1994, 1st European Conference on Sustainable Cities; Lisbon 1996, 2nd European Conference on Sustainable Cities; Hannover 2000, 3rd Conference on Sustainable Cities; European Union in 2001, VI Environmental Action Plan 2002/2010; Aalborg +10 and the Aalborg Commitments in 2004.

Pro-environmental behavior[edit]

Green consumer behavior is a form of pro-environmental behavior, which can be defined as a form of consumption that harms the environment as little as possible, or even benefits the environment.[3] Past research has provided empirical support to the claim that green or pro-environmental consumer behavior is composed of:[4]

  • "Private-sphere behavior" refers to the purchase, use and disposal of personal and household products that have environmental impact,[5] such as automobiles, public transportation, or recycling[4]
  • "Public-sphere behavior" refers to behavior that affects the environment directly through committed environmental activism or indirectly by influencing public policies,[5] such as active involvement in environmental organizations and demonstrations (direct impact) or petitioning on environmental issues (indirect impact)[4]

The contextual factors such as monetary incentives, costs, regulations, public policy norms, as well as subjectively perceived factors such as perceived resources available[6] have a strong impact on consumer pro-environmental behavior and thus green consumption through the mediating effect of attitudes.[4] In sum, it is through attitude, that subjectively perceived contextual factors such as the extent to which consumers perceive having more or less time, money and power available, modulate pro-environmental behavior in general, and green consumption in particular.

Green consumer behavior[edit]

We can define green consumer behavior by the following characteristics:

  • "purchase choice, product use and post-use, household management, collective, and consumer activism behaviors, reflecting some degree of environmental- related motivation";[7]
  • "purchase and use of products with lower environmental impacts, such as biodegradable products, recycled or reduced packaging, and low energy usage";[8]
  • use of organic product, made with processes that provide energy saving, then by the action of recycling, in fact a green consumer is "one who purchase products and services perceived to have a positive (or less negative) influence on the environment […]"[9]

We can find a green consumer behavior when an individual acts ethically, motivated not only by his/her personal needs, but also by the respect and preservation of the welfare of entire society, because a green consumer takes into account the environmental consequences (costs and benefits) of his/her private consumption. Green consumers are expected to be more conscientious in their use of assets, for example by using their goods without wasting resources. However the Eurobarometer's survey of consumers’ behavior (2013) showed that consumers seem not to be fully conscious of the importance of adopting a set of new behaviors that are more environmental-friendly. In this report it is possible to find that even though a very high proportion of citizens buy green products (80%), more than a half are classified as occasional maintenance (54%), and only a quarter are regular buyer of green products (26%). This fact implies that most of people do not behave like green consumer continuously, probably because of a lot of social and economic constraints, such as the fact that green products are much more expensive than non-green ones, and also because it is not always so easy to find organic and biological goods for each category, and because the green-retailers are not so widespread. Some researchers find that personal values are influential determinants of consumption and that pro-environmental behavior might serve as a signal of personality dimension. Considering the time-horizon in the acquisition of green behavior, we can distinguish two types of consumers:

  1. prevention-type consumers, that feel a moral duty towards a greener lifestyle
  2. promotion-type, that are more focused on their aspirations and their dreams and don't strongly feel the pressure to quickly adjust their behavior in the direction of becoming more environmental-friendly.[10]

Another research find the effect of gender and social identity on green consumption: "female declared higher levels of sustainable consumption compared with male participants; however when social identity is salient, male increased their sustainable consumption intentions to the same level as female.[8] In this research are identified two kind of people, that have more:

  1. self-transcendent values, like woman, that are more willing to engage in sustainable consumption
  2. self-enhanced values, like men, that are less interested in green behavior

The fact is that sustainable consumption is, for men, a way to reinforce their social image, showing to others that they care about environment, instead for women sustainable consumption is intrinsically important. The evidence is that green consumers are mainly female, aged between 30 and 44 years old, well educated, in a household with a high annual income.[8]

Principal areas of developed green consumption[edit]

Green energy[edit]

Green energy includes natural energetic processes that can be harnessed with little pollution.

Green food[edit]

In the food area, there is a recent growing of demand for less environmentally-damaging food production, that leads people to buy more organic and local food. Organic food is produced through agriculture which does not use artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and animals reared in more natural conditions, without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive livestock farming. Consumers can also choose to buy local food in order to reduce the social and environmental impacts of "food miles" – the distance food travels between being produced and being consumed. This behavior can create a new sense of connection with the land, through a concern for the authenticity and provenience of the food eaten, operating a social as much as a technological innovation.[11] In addition, taste, health and safety concerns can be other reasons behind this consumption practices.

Green fashion[edit]

"Ethical clothing refers to clothing that takes into consideration the impact of production and trade on the environment and on the people behind the clothes we wear. Eco clothing refers to all clothing that has been manufactured using environmentally friendly processes. It includes organic textiles and sustainable materials such as hemp and non-textiles such as bamboo or recycled plastic bottles. It also includes recycled products (clothes made from recycled clothing including vintage, textile and other materials and can also be termed re-used) and is not necessarily made from organic fibers. Organic clothing means clothes that have been made with a minimum use of chemicals and with minimum damage to the environment and fair-trade is intended to achieve better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms for farmers and workers in the developing world".[12]

The three main reasons that would motivate the purchase of organic cloths are:

  • Environmental-friendly protection;
  • Health impact;
  • Ethical concerns.

Another important question is related to the textile and clothing industry that generates much pollution and consumes a large amount of resources. Improper uses and disposal of clothing products make the problems much more severe. Consumers are concerned about these (environmental) issues, and are best motivated to change their behaviors in a philanthropic or environmental-friendly actions that adapt with their financial and sustainability interests. An intuitive and sustainable strategy is the reusing cloths. Textile recycling is a method of reprocessing used clothing, fibrous material and clothing scraps from the manufacturing process. This can reduce manufacturing pollution and resource consumption.[13] The world is facing one of the worst economic crises ever, which affects all industries, including fashion and luxury. In this way moderate consumption is becoming an implicit rules.[12] Consumers pay attention to the origin and the materials of the clothes they buy and the fact that they are not harmful to the environment.[14] Also, the issue of trust arises and a label certifying the organic origin is strongly required. But consumers often have a lack of information of green fashion or maybe they are unaware of the existence of green fashion alternatives to traditional adult fashion. Thus, there is a need to create awareness and inform better the consumers on the nature of organic fashion.[original research?]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Connolly, John; Prothero, Andrea (March 2008). "Green Consumption: Life-politics, risk and contradictions". Journal of Consumer Culture. 8 (1): 117–145. doi:10.1177/1469540507086422. S2CID 146265463.
  2. ^ Elliott, Rebecca (June 2013). "The taste for green: The possibilities and dynamics of status differentiation through 'green' consumption". Poetics. 41 (3): 294–322. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2013.03.003.
  3. ^ Steg, Linda; Vlek, Charles (September 2009). "Encouraging pro-environmental behaviour: An integrative review and research agenda" (PDF). Journal of Environmental Psychology. 29 (3): 309–317. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2008.10.004. hdl:11370/7581b727-854c-41c2-a8af-e055e6224240.
  4. ^ a b c d Ertz, Myriam; Karakas, Fahri; Sarigöllü, Emine (October 2016). "Exploring pro-environmental behaviors of consumers: An analysis of contextual factors, attitude, and behaviors". Journal of Business Research. 69 (10): 3971–3980. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2016.06.010.
  5. ^ a b Stern, Paul C. (January 2000). "New Environmental Theories: Toward a Coherent Theory of Environmentally Significant Behavior". Journal of Social Issues. 56 (3): 407–424. doi:10.1111/0022-4537.00175.
  6. ^ Olli, Eero; Grendstad, Gunnar; Wollebaek, Dag (March 2001). "Correlates of Environmental Behaviors: Bringing Back Social Context". Environment and Behavior. 33 (2): 181–208. doi:10.1177/0013916501332002. S2CID 38386910.
  7. ^ Peattie, Ken (21 November 2010). "Green Consumption: Behavior and Norms". Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 35 (1): 195–228. doi:10.1146/annurev-environ-032609-094328.
  8. ^ a b c Costa Pinto, Diego; Herter, Márcia M.; Rossi, Patricia; Borges, Adilson (September 2014). "Going green for self or for others? Gender and identity salience effects on sustainable consumption: Gender, identities and sustainable consumption". International Journal of Consumer Studies. 38 (5): 540–549. doi:10.1111/ijcs.12114.
  9. ^ Haws, Kelly L.; Winterich, Karen Page; Naylor, Rebecca Walker (July 2014). "Seeing the world through GREEN-tinted glasses: Green consumption values and responses to environmentally friendly products". Journal of Consumer Psychology. 24 (3): 336–354. doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2013.11.002. S2CID 154557555.
  10. ^ Miniero, Giulia; Codini, Anna; Bonera, Michelle; Corvi, Elisabetta; Bertoli, Giuseppe (September 2014). "Being green: from attitude to actual consumption: Being green". International Journal of Consumer Studies. 38 (5): 521–528. doi:10.1111/ijcs.12128.
  11. ^ Seyfang, Gill (May 2007). "Growing sustainable consumption communities: The case of local organic food networks". International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. 27 (3/4): 120–134. doi:10.1108/01443330710741066.
  12. ^ a b Cervellon, Marie-Cécile; Hjerth, Helena; Ricard, Sandrine; Carey, Lindsey (2010). "Green in fashion? An exploratory study of national differences in consumers concern for eco-fashion" (PDF). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ Hu, Zhi-Hua; Li, Qing; Chen, Xian-Juan; Wang, Yan-Feng (16 October 2014). "Sustainable Rent-Based Closed-Loop Supply Chain for Fashion Products". Sustainability. 6 (10): 7063–7088. doi:10.3390/su6107063.
  14. ^ Cotton incorporated: Archived 2015-03-14 at the Wayback Machine[unreliable source?]


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