Sustainable Consumption

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The Role of Formal and Informal Forces in Shaping Consumption and Implications for Sustainable Society: Part II (20 page pdf, Sustainability 2010, 2, 2573-2592, Aug. 10,2010)

The search for a sustainable, pollution-free city must address the issue of consumption of goods and what gives rise to it. The article reviewed today looks at the drivers for consuming behaviour and destroys some myths along the way.

Key Quotes:


  • People are primarily rational consumers and maximizers of personal utility..consumers are not always rational; they sometimes even act against their own best interests (for example, by knowingly eating unhealthy food) and sometimes make decisions prioritizing common or societal good over individual interests.
  • Information-based instruments are the main policy tool to address unsustainable patterns and levels of consumption.. the fact that people‘s actions sometimes contradict their stated attitudes and values is important to keep in mind when thinking about policy interventions.
  • Changing behavior in one domain of everyday life, e.g., waste sorting, will spill over to other domains of everyday life, e.g., driving or flying.. policy instruments should address general values related to the environment and wider society, in addition to aiming for individual behavior changes in specific domains
  • Consumers are the main actors in the shift towards sustainable consumption .. social norms, traditions, and values underlying mainstream society that have the most significant impact on consumption behavior, and so these should be the level at which policy interventions are targeted in the first instance.

“We need a shift at the societal level from our current normal way of life to a sustainable normal way of life and it is governments who can lead this best, rather than relying on the hope that if we give individuals enough information, they will choose to go against the mainstream and start living sustainably”

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