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Sustainable Consumer Behavior: The Future of Consumption

Responsible consumers have begun to take their personal responsibility to protect the environment very seriously. In fact, digital payment trends tell us that in recent years it has become popular to support green businesses. Consumers will take extra steps or spend extra money to ensure that the products they’re buying are kind to the environment. This practice is known as sustainable consumption.

Shifting to Sustainable Consumption

The decision to live more sustainably has to be made individually, but there are ways of encouraging people to consume more responsibly. Social influence is one of the many ways we can encourage others to make a change in their life. Humans are social animals and will oftentimes look towards the actions of others to determine how they should behave. This is especially true of ethical issues such as sustainability. If you show others what you are doing to consume sustainably, then there is a good chance that they will begin to act similarly. Encouraging your neighbors to act more sustainably is a simple way to make a big difference. Even an act as simple as recycling can have a huge impact if others are also encouraged to do it.

Another way to encourage others to consume more responsibly is to show them that the effects of climate change are tangible. In general, people aren’t concerned with abstract consequences that lie in the distant future. Making climate change a local and relatable issue can encourage them to care more. This is where concrete examples of the effects of climate change come into play. Real-world examples of climate change’s impact are more effective at encouraging people to shift to sustainable consumption.

Consume, Buy and Dispose of Waste Better

There are three steps to shifting to sustainable consumption. They are consuming better, buying better, and disposing of waste better. Consuming better means changing our habits to live a more sustainable lifestyle. It is more than just switching to a more sustainable brand. Consuming better requires you to consider whether you need to purchase that product at all. For example, it has become popular to buy reusable straws as an alternative to one-time-use straws. But many of these reusable straws are still made of plastics that contribute heavily to pollution and physical waste. Instead, you should consider whether it is necessary to use a straw at all. Truly sustainable consumption generally leads to a simpler lifestyle.

Buying better is the second step in the three-step process of living more sustainably. Buying better means purchasing the products you need from sustainable companies whenever possible. Prioritize reusable or recyclable products over their counterparts that can only be used once. Remember that it has become popular for businesses to appear green these days, so don’t fall for a marketing gimmick. Do your research and ensure that the companies you choose to support actually care for the environment.

The final step to becoming a more responsible consumer is to dispose of waste better. This means responsibly disposing of the products we no longer use in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.  There are several ways to do this. If what you’re trying to toss out is biodegradable, then consider composting it. This is a great way to get rid of food waste responsibly. You can also consider taking old clothes to thrift stores or second-hand shops.

Credit: Photo by Akil Mazumder

Barriers to Sustainable Consumer Behavior

Unfortunately, there are barriers to sustainable consumption that can make it difficult. For example, a lack of education on sustainable practices severely limits the number of people who live sustainably. Another barrier to responsible consumption is the habits we already have as consumers. If you have already become accustomed to disposable coffee cups, then it can be difficult to transition using reusable coffee cups. The price associated with some sustainable products can be another barrier. The most obvious example of this is with produce. Vegetables that are grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides can cost more than what we are used to.

Actions that Companies Can Take

Companies are beginning to take advantage of the many benefits that running a green business can have. Brands that have committed themselves to protecting the environment have enjoyed increased customer loyalty and improved brand perception. Here is a quick list of ways that companies can begin acting more environmentally friendly.

  • Reduce paper use
  • Switch to LED lighting
  • Allow employees to work from home when possible
  • Source your raw materials responsibly
  • Reduce the amount of packaging on your product
  • Optimize shipping routes

Credit: Photo by Snapwire.