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Why buying less is better than buying green

The research also finds that those who consume less tend to be happier compared with those who engage in pro-environmental consumer behaviors, such as buying environmentally friendly products. While this may be of less value to an economic system based on conspicuous consumption, the resultant decrease in production will reduce the impact on the environment overall.

The research focus is with the extent that materialistic values influence pro-environmental behaviors in millennials (a demographic regarded as the most influential group of consumers in the U.S., in relation to trends and buying power). The University of Arizona study looked at the influence of culture upon spending patterns and overall levels of consumption.

Spending patterns were considered in relation to lower consumption, where actions like repairing older items instead of replacing them and avoiding purchasing unnecessary items predominate; and with so-termed “green buying,” where the consumer sets out to purchase products that have a low environmental impact, such as buying goods created using recycled materials.

The research showed that materially inclined people were not inclined to buy less; however, materially inclined people could switch from buying less environmentally sustainable products towards buying products that are ostensibly ‘green’. To buy less was not so common in society and required greater effort.

The research highlighted benefits for those who engaged in buying fewer things; this minority from the millennial group were found to have higher personal well-being and lower psychological distress, compared with the ‘green materialists’.

According to lead researcher Dr. Sabrina Helm: “Reduced consumption has effects on increased well-being and decreased psychological distress, but we don’t see that with green consumption.”

The research findings have been published in the journal Young Consumers, with the research paper headed “Materialist values, financial and pro-environmental behaviors, and well-being.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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