Leading a Green Lifestyle
We as a society seem to increasingly experience an accelerated rhythm of life, and this seems to be driven by increasing demands on our work and leisure times, the blurring of boundaries between the two. Material wellbeing is considered to be necessary for happiness – but we see that after a certain threshold (of wealth), research does not support this assumption. And we feel more alienated, and have less time for what we deem important.
‘More and more, people are realising that happiness and wellbeing depend not on material things, but being with others. Spending less time on running after material affluence and trading it for time to spend in our communities, share resources, and go to economic models that do not need to be based on individual consumerism.
Changing behaviour is obviously not easy, although there are examples of areas where behaviour does change rapidly. Think about things such as the use of the mobile phone or social networks. We need to design policies that make sustainable options the first ones people see and think about, such as those based on the principles of nudging (encouraging people to do things through the choices they are offered).
‘We also need to use campaigns based on social norms research, that is, showing people that more and more of our society is deciding in favour of sustainable options. And it is also important for people to be aware of the situations in which their choices are sustainable, as making conscious choices contributes to building a personal identity that includes seeing ourselves as a pro-environmental person, which, in turn, leads to more sustainable choices.
The main stumbling block is our own economic system, which is oriented towards intensive consumption and extensive resource use. This comes from the times of the Industrial Revolution, when that was not a problem, and we expanded our industrial system through intense resource consumption. But now population has increased tremendously. And we think we need to have a car, we need to travel, we need to go on holiday to faraway places, we need a flight to get to a meeting – the system works in these ways. But we believe changing our economic system would mean bankruptcy – and that does not need to be so. We want to evaluate the impacts of significant lifestyle and economic changes in terms of macroeconomic and environmental effects and see what would happen.
Identities are based on our belonging to certain social groups and they are also developed through the observation of our own behaviour. If we come to define ourselves as the type of person that acts pro-environmentally or for whom the environment is important, we are likely to act more sustainably.
‘Our aspirations might also be related to our identity. We are discovering that people want to spend more time in their communities, or to have time for the ones they love or for volunteer work. And this is influenced by a different set of aspirations than desires for a consumerist lifestyle. Also, when people experience these changes, they report higher levels of personal satisfaction and wellbeing, and they also tend to act more sustainably.
‘Our pro-environmental identity can be strengthened when the individual is part of a likeminded community. Aspirations for having time for your community in particular appear to be influential in driving desires for sustainable lifestyle changes.Tags: adapting to an environmental lifestyle, people to change their behaviours