Green consumption is related to sustainable development or sustainable consumer behaviour. It is a form of consumption that safeguards the environment for the present and for future generations. It 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 choice of goods produced by companies with zero, or almost zero, impact (zero waste, zero-emissions vehicle, zero-energy building, etc.).
In Western societies, green consumption emerged 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 and by 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 grew slowly, remaining a niche phenomenon. American interest in green products started to increase again in the early 2000s and have continued to grow.
After the oil crisis of 1973, people in western countries began to consider the use of renewable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. Now 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[who?] argue that increasing globalization led people to 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 which have 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.
Green consumer behavior is a form of pro-environmental behavior, a form of consumption that harms the environment as little as possible or even benefits the environment. Research provides empirical support to the claim that green or pro-environmental consumer behavior is composed of:
Contextual factors like monetary incentives, costs, regulations, and public policy norms, as well as subjectively perceived factors such as perceived resources available influence consumer pro-environmental behavior and thus green consumption through the mediating effect of attitudes. 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 has the following characteristics:
A green consumer is "one who purchase products and services perceived to have a positive (or less negative) influence on the environment…" Green consumers act ethically, motivated not only by their personal needs, but also by the respect and preservation of the welfare of entire society, because they take into account the environmental consequences (costs and benefits) of their private consumption. Green consumers are 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 place importance on adopting a set of new behaviors that are more environmentally-friendly. That report stated that even though a very high proportion of citizens buy green products (80%), more than half are classified as occasional maintenance[clarification needed] (54%), and only a quarter are regular buyer of green products (26%). This suggests that most people do not behave like green consumers continuously, probably because of social and economic constraints, such as the fact that green products can be more expensive than non-green ones, or because it is not always easy to find green goods for each category, and green retailers are not so widespread. Some researchers[who?] find that personal values are influential determinants of consumption and that pro-environmental behavior might serve as a signal of personality dimension[clarification needed]. There are two types of consumers:
Another researcher finds an effect of gender and social identity on green consumption:[clarification needed]"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. In this research are identified two kind of people, that have more:
Sustainable consumption is, for men, a way to reinforce their social image, showing to others that they care about environment, whereas 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.
Green energy includes natural energetic processes that can be harnessed with little pollution.
Demand for less environmentally-damaging food production leads people to buy more organic and local food. Organic food is produced through agriculture that does not use artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and animals reared in more natural conditions, without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics, and dewormers 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 as a social as much as a technological innovation. Taste, health, and safety concerns can be other reasons behind this consumption practices.
Main article: Sustainable fashion
Three reasons that motivate the purchase of organic cloths are:
The textile and clothing industry generates much pollution and consumes many resources. Improper use and disposal of clothing products make the problems much more severe. Consumers who are concerned about these (environmental) issues, are best motivated to change their behaviors via philanthropic or environmental-friendly actions that adapt with their financial and sustainability interests. An intuitive and sustainable strategy is clothing reuse. 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. Consumers may pay attention to the origin and the materials of the clothes they buy and whether they are harmful to the environment. Consumers often have a lack of information of green fashion or are unaware of the existence of green fashion alternatives to traditional adult fashion.[original research?]
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