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Individual strategies for sustainable consumption

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Consumers have a key role to play in meeting government targets for reduced energy consumption, more sustainable waste management practices, and lifestyles with fewer environmental consequences. We discuss some of the assumptions underpinning academic debates about sustainable consumption and describe a research design which has helped us move beyond some of the less helpful conventions. We interviewed consumers in order to obtain a detailed understanding of several of their recent (non-)purchase processes. We identified three groups who have distinct strategies for greening their lifestyles: Translators, Exceptors, and Selectors. We illustrate these groups using empirical data. This detailed understanding of how individuals approach the problem of greening not only provides new insight into how the problem of consumption may be approached in conceptual and practical terms, but also explains some of the difficulties encountered by previous research. We revisit the literature to examine the challenges that this typology offers extant ways of thinking about ‘the green consumer’. We identify ways in which we might influence the groups in our typology through marketing strategies and policy initiatives.

Keywords: ethical consumer; green consumer; greening; semi-structured interviews; sustainable consumption

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: The Robert Gordon University, UK 2: Sheffield University, UK 3: University of Leeds, UK 4: Chung-Ang University, Korea

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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