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Life Events as Windows of Opportunity for Changing Towards Sustainable Consumption Patterns?

Results from an Intervention Study

Abstract

Strategies for motivating households towards sustainable consumption are confronted with the challenge of addressing seldom-reflected-upon routines, which cannot easily be changed. We investigate whether life-course transitions can serve as starting point for sustainable consumption interventions, assuming that during such transitions people already need to adapt their behavioural routines and are thus more receptive to interventions. The effects of two different campaigns (information mailing and personal consultation) were evaluated for people experiencing two different kinds of life events (childbirth and relocation). The experimental study found that the consultation campaign had significant effects on sustainable consumption concerning some of the focussed on behaviours, but did not have greater effects on the life-events groups. Mailing of information did not result in significant behavioural changes. To get a clearer picture about the impact of life-course transitions on everyday routines and susceptibility to interventions, additional qualitative interviews were carried out. The results indicate that everyday routines and consumption patterns change during life-course transitions, but with heterogeneous results regarding sustainability. The interviews revealed that the preparation phase preceding life events and a rather short period after them are decisive for changes in routine. Tentative explanations for the low impact of the consultation campaign on the persons in life-course transition are that the campaign addressed the target groups too late and that its design was not specifically adapted to these target groups.

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Notes

  1. The terms “routines” and “habits” are used as synonyms in this article.

  2. The study was part of the project “Life events as windows of opportunity for a change towards sustainable consumption patterns” (abbreviated as “LifeEvents”), which sought to investigate the influence of two life events on everyday consumption patterns as well as the susceptibility of people to interventions promoting sustainable consumption following life events. This was a collaborative project between the Technische Universität Berlin and the University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld, funded from 2007 to 2011 by the Social-ecological research programme of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. For more information: http://www.lifeevents.de.

  3. This article focuses on the results concerning the significance of life events. Articles explaining details of the qualitative methods and results as well as on psychological theory underpinning the intervention are in the process of being published and will be announced on this website: http://www.lifeevents.de.

  4. More information about the evaluation tools is available by contacting the authors.

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Correspondence to Martina Schäfer.

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Schäfer, M., Jaeger-Erben, M. & Bamberg, S. Life Events as Windows of Opportunity for Changing Towards Sustainable Consumption Patterns?. J Consum Policy 35, 65–84 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10603-011-9181-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10603-011-9181-6

Keywords

  • Sustainable consumption
  • Life events
  • Mixed methods
  • Sustainability interventions
  • Everyday life