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Oct 09, 2019 07:39 AM EDT

Buy Less Or Buy Green: Which Truly Helps The Environment And Self?

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The overconsumption of resources -- from food, clothing and even method of transportation -- is the leading source of climate change, according to Sabrina Helm, a researcher from the University of Arizona. Therefore, it is important that consumers understand how their choices contribute to the destruction of the planet. 

A new study explores how materialistic values influence a person's pro-environmental behavior among millennials. Considering that they are now the most influential group of consumers, what millennials choose to buy or not to buy affects the global economy. Helm and her collaborators have published the results of their study in the Young Consumers journal. 

The team focused on two pro-environmental behaviors: 1. Reducing consumption; 2. "Green" buying. The first one focuses more on repairing instead of replacing while the second focuses on the purchase of products with a limited environmental impact. The researchers looked into how engaging these two pro-environmental behaviors affect the well-being of the consumer. 

Participants who were more materialistic did not engage much in reducing consumption. However, their materialism did not affect their desire to buy "green" perhaps because the purchase of "green" items still fulfill their desire to accumulate new things

"We found evidence that there is a group of people that belong to the "green materialists", Helm said. They are able to buy environmentally healthy products while living their materialistic values. They are able to make purchases that fit the mainstream "buying" norm. However, the idea of reducing consumption violates the idea of consumer culture and is leaning more on sustainability. 

Some participants of the study favored reducing consumption. Buying less means consuming less, which in turn, was linked to a more positive personal well-being. The study reveals that buying less led to lower psychological distress. 

Although buying green leads to positive environmental implications, it did not help consumer well-being. The researchers thought that buying environmentally friendly goods would create a pattern of satisfaction among consumers, but it did not. "Reduced consumption of goods brought an increase in positive well-being. Green consumption did not," Helm said. 

The take-home message of the research project maybe this: The key to a healthier life and a more positive outlook is to reduce consumption and not simply shift to buying the "green" products. Buying less means having less and according to this research, it actually makes people feel more satisfied with their lives. 

Owning a lot of things also meant thinking about a lot of things. There is a certain kind of burden to ownership that not a lot of people realize. But when you buy something, you become responsible for it. To relieve the self of all the extra weight of worries, it is best to stick to simple living. 

Helm and her colleagues included in their report the importance of owning less in achieving a stress-free life. Materialism among millennial consumers may also teach them the value of proper handling of finances. When they know what they don't need, it is easier to keep a simple life. 

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