Chapter 21: Promoting sustainable consumption: the risks of using financial incentives
Scientists agree that many of today’s most pressing environmental issues (for example, resource depletion, water pollution, climate change) can ultimately be attributed to specific behaviour of consumers. Whether we decide to live in poor or well-insulated houses, travel by plane or train, put beef or locally grown vegetables on our plate, on an aggregate level, substantially influences the amount of energy, water and land that is involved in housing, moving and feeding humanity (Hammond 2006; Hoekstra 2013). Consequently, a key component to mitigating environmental problems lies with changing the behaviour of individual consumers (Dietz et al. 2009). But how should consumers be motivated to act pro-environmentally? Sustainable consumption often involves some degree of physical or financial discomfort on behalf of the consumer. For example locally grown vegetables are typically less readily available than mass-produced, greenhouse-grown alternatives which are typically offered in supermarket settings. Sustainable consumption is sometimes also financially expensive; adding more insulation to one’s home for instance requires a steep initial financial investment.
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