It is better to reduce consumption than being a ‘green materialistic’

Most people in developed nations are obsessive shoppers, which means they often end up buying and accumulating stuff on which they believe they’re getting a good deal, irrespective of whether they actually require the product or not. While we may not realize this, but this behavior is negatively impacting our environment in a huge way as all these consumer goods require resources that are increasingly finite, and when they end up in the landfills, they are again harming the environment.

This was the topic of a study conducted by Sabrina Helm, a professor at the Norton School of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Arizona, in which the researchers followed a group of nearly 1,000 Millennial-aged adults for five years. They were interested in two main categories of ‘pro-environmental behaviors’:

1) Reduced consumption, which includes actions like repairing instead of replacing older items, avoiding impulse purchases, and not buying unnecessary items; and

2) ‘Green buying,’ or purchasing products designed to limit environmental impacts.

Some of the study participants were highly materialistic, shopping to “fulfill their desire to accumulate new items.” Helm found that, of these, some fell into a category of ‘green materialists,’ meaning they bought ‘green’ consumer products in order to feel better about their purchases, but this did not improve consumer well-being.

Buying less, however, did have a positive mental effect!

Less materialistic participants engaged in reduced consumption, a.k.a. minimalism. This practice was “linked to higher personal well-being and lower psychological distress.”

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Helm hopes her research encourages people to pause their shopping sprees and think about what it does to them and to the Earth:

“If you have a lot of stuff, you have a lot on your mind. Maybe you have a lot of debt because you bought all that stuff, and now you have to manage all that stuff… There’s a lot of burdens of ownership, and if you relieve yourself of that burden of ownership, most people report feeling a lot better and freer.”

This is an interesting finding that proves buying less is better than buying green.

Top image Source: Istock

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