Beyond Abundance: Self-Interest Motives for Sustainable Consumption in Relation to Product Perception and Preferences
2. Exploring Sustainable Consumption Patterns and Lifestyles
2.1. Context of the Study
- limiting their consumption in terms of the volume and quantity of products purchased;
- hoosing more socially and ecologically sound products and/or services (including more “local” products);
- using product-service systems;
- repairing, exchanging, and creating products;
- investing in their communities;
- consuming less meat and processed food;
- favouring natural materials and organic food;
- favouring living in dense cities or in rural areas (rather than in suburbs);
- placing less value or importance on work as an activity while still wishing to have a meaningful and interesting job and/or reduced work hours;
- practicing “low” environmental impact leisure activities.
- 1. “Eco-efficient” SimplifiersPeople may consume greener products but do not necessarily consume less.
- 2. “Better World” SimplifiersPeople who work altruistically to adopt responsible consumption patterns primarily as a result of their commitment to a “better world” but partly because of perceived personal benefits. They are concerned about social injustice, corporatism, inequity, and environmental and social degradation. Most are not particularly interested in reducing their working hours and usually see higher purchasing power as an opportunity to bring about change to society. They tend to value an “efficiency” approach to consumption in opting for more sustainable products and, although they tend to reduce their consumption levels, are inclined to consume more than the following type of consumer.
- 3. “Quality of Life” SimplifiersPeople who see a more sustainable lifestyle primarily as a way to improve their quality of life and, as well, a way of positively responding to environmental and social problems. They often have reduced (or are considering reducing) their working hours and are more likely to adopt a “sufficiency” approach to consumption while also opting for more sustainable products. The group tends to consume less than profiles 1 and 2 above. People belonging to this category are more likely to bring changes to their lifestyles. In their case, greener consumption is part of a larger transformation that includes an important change in the way they perceive “the good life”.
- 4. “Involuntary” SimplifiersPeople who tend to use the simplicity discourse to explain a certain “involuntary” simplicity. Although they consume less, they do not necessarily choose more sustainable products, as their concern for larger environmental and social issues seems not to be a significant part of their motivation for “simplifying”.
- the ways in which respondents experience responsible consumption and their underlying motives;
- the place functional objects occupy in their lives;
- the qualities they value in functional objects;
- their representations surrounding the concept of sustainable product;
- the way positive aesthetic experiences are lived;
- the resulting visual culture.
3. Results: Perceived Personal Benefits and Product Qualities
Commuting by either biking or running to my work allows me to incorporate a way to get some exercise while also saving money.… Before buying a product I consider its price in terms of the time I had to work in order to acquire the amount of money in question. This way of seeing things allows me to better perceive the cost of a product for my life.
In thinking about my relationship with things, I want to be in charge, I don’t want them to run my life.
The more you want time for yourself, the less you need to spend. The more you spend, the more you need to work and the less time you have, so for me luxury is not about a gold ring or a gold watch, for me luxury is time.
I wanted to know if I really needed a highly paid salary to do what I want in life, but what I really needed was time. I was working late hours, and you know, with my two children… What also struck me is that I was working in order to buy stuff.… Then I decided to do things differently
Responsible consumption is also a way to tend towards a reduction of purchases, and more globally, a reduction of everything that is material around you. I think we all need to do this because we are cluttered by a bulk of objects.
I think that in some ways, getting rid of things you don’t really need allows you to gain the time you were using to maintain this stuff, so primarily it gives you more time to spend with people.
I realized that I don’t give an important place to objects, or not much importance.… I evaluate which objects are useful and which are only encumbering and cluttering up my interior space and give away things I don’t need.
Considering all the energy that you spend and put into objects, I try to have less. It is better to have objects that last longer, that are of better quality and that I will keep longer.
In general I try to avoid objects full of gadgets or superfluous options and I try to take the ones that are as simple as possible.… The less you have gadgets on your object, the longer it will last because it will be less likely to break.
The less an object has components and all this, it is easier to repair, it will last longerand there will be less need for replacement and this I think too is in line with responsible consumption.
When it is simple, it is as if I was given back some power over the objects.
You need to think in terms of durability and not to be too dependent on money and having to work like a fool in order to afford everything the companies try to make you believe you need.… Commercials are trying to sell things to do a function that could be done with stuff that we probably already have.
The first question that I ask myself is do I really need this, and can I rent it instead of buying it, can I borrow it? And often finally the answer is yes, there are other ways, we don’t always need to go and buy a product. And if I wish to buy something, I will give myself some time to think about it before proceeding, to be sure it is not impulsive buying.
If we are making less money then we are almost forced to be more creative with the objects, the things, and the way we are consuming.
You start disconnecting from your life when you have too much.… I see every object now as an investment of my time, as something that may take away from something else I could be doing or I want to be doing as far as having to pay to purchase it, and having to pay to maintain it.
I think that it is important to think about the usage of a product. The use you are making out of a product needs to be justified and needs to be worth it, considering the energy that has been put into this object and all the energy you put into your work to get the money to acquire it.
When you decide to evaluate what are your real needs and how many hours of work are necessary to meet these with a part time job, you can have enough for everything that you really need and then you get time with your family. You get some time to make things that you will not buy because you have time to make them… It’s a different way to see the relationship between work, time and money.
It is great when you can see how it works… Like this, if it breaks, I can think that I will be able to fix it.
The more complex and fragile the object that you buy is, the more you are dependent… I think we need to keep a certain autonomy and manual objects allow this.… Responsible consumption and simple living is aimed at the autonomy to do things yourself.
For me this (Cat Tree) is beautiful, in the sense that my boyfriend made this using scraps he found at work, like spare carpet and wood, and the cats love it, it’s the creativity behind it that I like… It’s like $150 for a thing like that and we said no, no, no.
4.1. Self-Interest and Altruism
At an intuitive level it is not surprising that people resist making changes that they perceive as reducing their quality of life. It is also not surprising that people are concerned about the future of the environment. Perhaps a broader view of human nature, one that encompasses more than material gain, could provide a way out of this impasse. A central failing to the altruistic position is that it attempts to put aside the issue of gain, of self-interest, in human behavior. The “economic man” position, by contrast, argues that gain is all that matters. Neither position is satisfactory; there is need for a position that is neither so extreme with respect to the issue of gain nor so narrow in its focus.
4.2. Potential Implications
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Marchand, A.; Walker, S.; Cooper, T. Beyond Abundance: Self-Interest Motives for Sustainable Consumption in Relation to Product Perception and Preferences. Sustainability 2010, 2, 1431-1447. https://doi.org/10.3390/su2051431
Marchand A, Walker S, Cooper T. Beyond Abundance: Self-Interest Motives for Sustainable Consumption in Relation to Product Perception and Preferences. Sustainability. 2010; 2(5):1431-1447. https://doi.org/10.3390/su2051431Chicago/Turabian Style
Marchand, Anne, Stuart Walker, and Tim Cooper. 2010. "Beyond Abundance: Self-Interest Motives for Sustainable Consumption in Relation to Product Perception and Preferences" Sustainability 2, no. 5: 1431-1447. https://doi.org/10.3390/su2051431