Research shows that social circles determine the adoption of sustainable habits


The habits and example given by friends, family and coworkers is a determining factor when adopting new attitudes related to a more sustainable behaviour in everyday life, this according to the study “Pathways to a more sustainable lifestyle”. Several men and women from different social classes and ages were interviewed, half of them already engaged in some sort of sustainable practice while the other half was not. This research managed to identify nine factors that promote the adoption of more sustainable attitudes, and six that inhibit a change in lifestyle. This research was released on Conscious Consumption Day, celebrated on October 15th.

According to the results of these interviews, feeling part of a group will determine if someone will take actions in favor of sustainability or make him resistant to changing his habits: “When someone feel part of a group this will either hinder or help this process of change”. A “group” here does not only to just family, is can also be a group of friends, coworkers, your children’s school,” according to the communications manager at the Akatu Institute, Gabriela Yamaguchi. Akatu is a non governmental organisation that raises social awareness about conscious consumption.

Among the factors that benefit the practice of more sustainable habits, as identified by this research, are: the possibility that those actions make your life simpler; a positive balance resulting from this change of habits, in terms of finances, practicality or comfort; the opportunity to help change and improve the world, inspire other people, to feel like you are part of something bigger, the sensation that people are changing their own lives positively and the possibility of starting with small steps.

Among the obstacles identified by the study are the perceived discomfort with the new sustainable practices, physical obstacles (such as age, health and physical condition), limitations in terms of (living) space, higher costs, cultural valorization of cleanliness and hygiene (hindering the reduction of water and electricity usage), and the sensation of isolation.

According to the study, separating waste and recycling are activities that help people think more about the rational use of resources. “The first step is recycling, dealing correctly with waste. People that already know and engage in these activities understand how to recycle, they have already taken that first step. For them it will be easier to take the necessary steps that follow,” Gabriela stated.

Professor Ricardo Abramovay, from the Institute of Energy and Environment of the University of São Paulo, reminds us that companies also play an important role when it comes to the adoption of sustainable habits by the population. “Changes in a company’s behaviour are strongly influenced by what people do. We tend to invert that equation when talking about changes in people’s behaviour; as if companies adapt to people’s preferences,” Abramovay explained.

Gabriela also reminds us that companies play an important part in all of this. “As more sustainable goods and services are made available by companies, it will be easier for customers to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. Companies are facilitators of sustainable practices in people’s households,” she said. Besides offering products, Gabriela also reminds us of the need for company campaigns to explain to people the reasons, arguments and importance of choosing a more sustainable path. “The research has that objective: to help companies that are launching such products, so that people become aware of the importance of choosing them and changing in favour of more sustainable practices”.

Source: Agência Brasil.