Sustainable Lifestyle: a Way to Look Better in the Eyes of Others?

Nowadays people are becoming more and more concerned about ecology. As a response to a devastating impact of humanity on our planet, people try to take care about the natural environment. Sustainable lifestyle and sustainable consumer behavior are the recent trends of 21st century. This can be clearly seen in a supermarket near your house: the shelves are full of products with a BIO label. The same for human behavior – people tend to say that they eat only healthy food, do sports, avoid plastic bags and packages, and try to preserve the nature for both modern and future generations. However, how sincere are these people?

All we know, that people tend to exaggerate what they do or even lie about themselves in order to impress other people. Of course, there are definitively some die-hard environmental activists and people that really try to reach sustainability. But unfortunately it is not true for everybody. There is such term as conspicuous consumption, which means spending money to gain status and impress others. It is a kind of mechanism through which consumers show their values and self-identity (Barauskaite and others, 2018). So, in case of BIO foods, some people tend to consume such products only because they think that they look good or more progressive in the eyes of others. Aside such form of virtue signaling they do nothing that corresponds to sustainable living ideas. As a result, BIO food consumption in this case becomes a new form of consumerism, which attracts frauds that label their foods as organic or bio, however in reality it is all fake. Such things happen not only in less developed countries, but even in USA. In 2018 USDA reported about importing a big amount of fake organic foods to the U.S.

People try to label themselves as eco-friendly and sustainable not only because of getting social capital, but also due to possible reputation loss. As we know, usually painassociated with lossesis assumed to be greater than the pleasure from gains. This mechanism is more relevant for environmentally aware countries, like Sweden. For example, in surveys related to protection of the environment and personal involvement in it, people tend to show that they are more environment friendly than they actually are. For example, a survey published in the Swedish daily newspaper showed overwhelming results: 72 % of interviewees said that they recycled their waste and astonishing 95 % said they would do it soon. However, only 14 % considerably reduced their own traveling and only 5 % used a bio diesel or a hybrid vehicle, which shows how insincere were the answers of respondents (Bichard & Cooper, 2008). It could mean that some of such surveys and especially interpretation of the results are biased.

It seems humanity is still pretty far from a real sustainable lifestyle. People try to label themselves as supporters of sustainable living ideas, however in real life they have nothing in common with people who really care about the environment. On the one hand, such insincerity is bad, because it could lead to a rise of fake eco-friendly goods market. On the other hand, aside fake BIO products and other trends it still could motivate people to behave more sustainable. Unfortunately, considerable time will probably pass before a real social transformation happens.

References

Barauskaite D., Gineikiene J., Auruskeviciene V., Fennis B.M., Yamaguchi M. & Kondo N. (2018). Eating healthy to impress: How conspicuous consumption, perceived self-control motivation, and descriptive normative influence determine functional food choices, Appetite (2018), doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.08.015

Bichard, E and Cooper, C L (2008). Positively Responsible: How Business Can Save the Planet. Elsevier, London, New York and Amsterdam. 232 p.

Rainey, Clint (2018). USDA Warns That Millions of Pounds of Fake ‘Organic’ Imports Are Pouring Into U.S. Grub Street. [Internet]. Available from: https://www.grubstreet.com/2017/09/millions-of-pounds-of-fake-organic-food-entering-america.html [Assessed 24th June 2020].

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