Despite the fact that a growing demand for products associated with ‘green’ development has been noted, improved production and green consumerism do not necessarily put a stop to the destruction of biodiversity and forests. What I will argue in this blog is the fact that consumers in emerging and developed countries should avoid excessive and wasteful consumption, by forming co-operatives and working together toward a shared purpose.
It has been argued that environmentally aware customers consider models of product differentiation and price competition when considering brand loyalty. Important questions concerning the impact of green consumerism on market equilibrium are addressed by these models, such as pollution taxes and subsidies for reducing pollution. However, what they all have in common is the acknowledgement of the importance of individual actions and the power of collective action. A relevant example of this theory is the idea of a shared economic-ecological system, in which collective decisions about consumption are made. The Organic Consumers Association is proof of the mobilization of consumers who only purchase organic food, in this way not only benefiting from the private aspects- more nutritious and healthier products- but also from public benefits, such as a better preserved and more sustainable ecosystem.
As questions about whether or not technology alone is capable to fully counteract the impacts of consumer society arise, the debate is directed towards the need for a shift that is beyond the consumerist culture and economy. Consumerist society is driven by the ideology of infinite growth and neoliberalism and it is formed by a complex system of institutions, technology, culture, markets and dominant business models. What drove the success of such system is the sophisticated exploitation of the quest for wellbeing and meaningful life.
Reducing the ecological costs of this system implies questioning the entire system, including principles of culture, politics and economy. In other words, the transition outside the limits of consumerism would entail a society-wide evolution toward conceptions of wellbeing and lifestyles.
What comes as a potential solution to the above-mentioned problem is the concept of the co-operative lifestyle arrangements. The phenomenon of ‘sharing economy’ denotes forms of collective use between strangers of services, spaces, financial assets and material goods. The concept has gained momentum in the recent years and includes access to swapping, lending, renting and access to privately owned goods. Drawing on demographics, the leading group making a change for this lifestyle is represented by the Millennials. An important driver of general consumer behaviour of this age group is self-identification. The much-needed change in economy can, therefore, be fuelled by the new, interdependent lifestyle arrangements popularized by the Millennials. The probability of changes in lifestyles, social practices and priorities of this demographic group is increased by their size and technology-based interconnectedness, which eases the way toward a shared collective consciousness that frames a new form of wellbeing that is different from the conventional, consumerist-oriented view.
In conclusion, the limits of technology can be surpassed by a new school of thought, based on co-operation and shared values oriented towards the purpose of creating a more environmentally friendly class of consumers. Based on environmental awareness, this paradigm shift might offer long-term solutions for reoccurring economic and social factors that impact the planet in a negative way.