Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Incentives and Inhibitors of Sustainable Consumption: A Qualitative Study among Urmia Informants

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Incentives and Inhibitors of Sustainable Consumption: A Qualitative Study among Urmia Informants

Article excerpt

Introduction

Understanding consumer behavior is a prerequisite of perceiving how to stimulate or encourage consumer environmental behavior. Consumer behavior is the most important key in society's impact on the environment. That is, people's actions and their choices have the same impact on the environment as they affect their personal and collective well-being. Sustainable Consumption (SD) is at the center of national and international policy attention (Jackson 2005), and is considered as a practical strategy for sustainable development (European Environment Agency 2007). Pape (2011) believes minimizing unsustainable consumption patterns and making changes in people's lifestyles play a pivotal role in turning into sustainable development expansion. Literature of sustainability (Pape 2011; Kim et al. 2012) shows us in modern life, individual consumption behavior determines effective strategies in the shifting to sustainability.

Generally, SC refers to every decision about to purchase or not a service or goods in order to contribute in the protecting and preserving the environment (Axelrod and Lehman 1993; Young et al. 2010). The formal definition of SC raised up from Oslo Symposium (1994) and refers to the use of products and services to meet basic needs along with minimizing resource depletion and toxic materials such a way that does not jeopardize the need satisfaction of future generations. It is a kind of new consumption pattern simultaneously follows up material need satisfaction and environmental protection. According to Mont and Plepys (2008), SC aims human needs, equity, quality of life, resource efficiency, waste minimization, consumer sovereignty and etc. Regarding the literature of issue Seyfang (2009), proposed a definition of SC which included social and economic indices along with environmental. He argued SC has five criteria such as; Reduction of ecological footprint, localization, community building, collective action and construction of new infrastructure of provision.

Research in the field of sustainable science declares environmental impacts of production and consumption must be deduced and consumers' patterns have a remarkable role in this task. Regarding Stern (2000) in general, there are three main ways for consumers to have sustainable environmental behavior: increasing energy efficiency, using less energy, and replacing goods having a negative environmental impact with goods having a positive environmental impact (Mathews 2012). Researchers divided effective factors on consumer behavior into internal and external approaches. Internal factors are related to psychological aspects such as attitudes, habits, and personal abilities whereas external factors argue environment has a remarkable effect on the behavior. Stern (2000), argues four variables which determine sustainable consumption behavior are attitudinal factors, external/contextual factors, personal capabilities, and habits and routines.

Sustainable consumption behavior is one of the less focused topics in the Iranian context. Iran is a developing country and in recent years, the environmental problems of the country have become more intense. Drying lakes and rivers, water scarcity, air pollution, increasing waste production and incorrect ways of disposal, interest in luxury lifestyle, overconsumption, extreme use of plastic materials, and production of large amounts of household waste are all examples of the environmental destruction in Iran. Although attention to many of these issues can be addressed in the context of large-scale decision-making, one of the areas in which the citizen-consumer role can be highlighted is encouraging people to choose environmentally friendly products, avoid consumption of disposable plastic materials and high-energy products, consume less polluting goods, use healthy and organic food products. Along with structural reforms and technical modernization, informing people about the consequences of individuals' practices regarding consumption and conducting research in the field of sustainability and the role of consumers are some of the practical strategies moving towards a sustainable society. …

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