Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 317–335 | Cite as

Green Goods: Are They Good or Bad News for the Environment? Evidence from a Laboratory Experiment on Impure Public Goods



Green goods such as recycled paper stationary or carbon-neutral flights provide increasingly popular examples of impure public goods. Motivated by theoretical treatments of green goods as a bundle of private and public characteristics in proportions fixed by the provider, we design an experiment with two linked treatments to test how the presence of impure public goods affects behaviour towards public good causes. We set parameters, such that from a standard economic perspective the presence of the impure public good is behaviourally irrelevant. In a treatment where the impure public good provides only small contributions to the public good, we observe that on aggregate pro-social behaviour is lower in the presence of the impure public good. On the contrary, in the treatment where the impure public good is more generous towards the public good component at the expense of private earnings, individuals are unaffected in their behaviour. We observe that impure public goods, that are theoretically irrelevant and are mostly self-interested, may hinder pro-social behaviour and look for explanations in social psychology, such as the phenomenon of thoughtful anchoring, motivated reasoning and reluctant altruism. The results from this experiment question the role of green goods in enhancing environmentally friendly behaviours.


Dictator games Experimental economics Green goods  Impure public goods Pro-social behaviour 

JEL Classification

C91 D64 H41 Q59 



The authors would like to thank three anonymous referees, and in particular the editor, for thoughtful comments and suggestions. The authors also thank Dirk Engelmann for helpful comments, Claire Blackman for her help in recruiting subjects and conference attendees at EAERE 2008, IMEBE 2008 and WCERE 2010. Marieta Valente acknowledges the financial support of Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia - FCT Portugal (Grant SFRH/ BD/ 19130/ 2004). Alistair Munro acknowledges the financial support of JSPS grant number 21530213.

Supplementary material

10640_2015_9898_MOESM1_ESM.docx (189 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (docx 189 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)TokyoJapan
  2. 2.Escola de Economia e Gestão and NIMAUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal

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