One More Awareness Gap? The Behaviour–Impact Gap Problem
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Preceding research has made hardly any attempt to measure the ecological impacts of pro-environmental behaviour in an objective way. Those impacts were rather supposed or calculated. The research described herein scrutinized the ecological impact reductions achieved through pro-environmental behaviour and raised the question how much of a reduction in carbon footprint can be achieved through voluntary action without actually affecting the socio-economic determinants of life. A survey was carried out in order to measure the difference between the ecological footprint of “green” and “brown” consumers. No significant difference was found between the ecological footprints of the two groups—suggesting that individual pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour do not always reduce the environmental impacts of consumption. This finding resulted in the formulation of a new proposition called the BIG (behaviour–impact gap) problem, which is an interesting addition to research in the field of environmental awareness gaps.
KeywordsAwareness gaps Ecological footprint Sustainable consumption Recycling Environmental awareness
I gratefully acknowledge the TÁMOP-4.2.1/B-09/1/KMR-2010-0005 project for financing this research and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism and the HU0056 project for making their survey data available for this study. I am also thankful to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this paper and to the editors, who provided great assistance during the review process.
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