A new study found that people who consume less are happier than those who engage in other pro-environmental consumer behaviors, like buying environmentally friendly products.
Humans’ overconsumption of resources — from the food and clothes we buy to the methods of transportation we choose — is a leading contributor to global climate change, says University of Arizona researcher Sabrina Helm. In a new study, published in the journal Young Consumers, Helm and her collaborators explore how culturally entrenched materialistic values influence pro-environmental behaviors in millennials, who are now the nation’s most influential group of consumers.
The researchers focused on 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.
2) “green buying,” or purchasing products designed to limit environmental impacts, such as goods made from recycled materials.
Study participants who reported having fewer materialistic values were much more likely to engage in reduced consumption. Consuming less was, in turn, linked to higher personal well-being and lower psychological distress. "Green buying" — which may have some positive environmental implications, although to a lesser degree than reduced consumption — was not found to improve consumer well-being, Helm said.