Journal article

Exploring the attitudes-action gap in household resource consumption: does “environmental lifestyle” segmentation align with consumer behaviour?

Consumer behaviour Energy consumption Melbourne
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Consumption is a transcending challenge for the 21st century that is stimulating research on multiple pathways required to deliver a more environmentally sustainable future. This paper is nested in what is a much larger field of research on sustainable consumption and reports on part of a major Australian Research Council study into the determinants of household resource consumption, based on a survey of 1,250 residents in Melbourne, Australia. Three environmental lifestyle segments are established that represent the spectrum of attitudes, opinions and intentions across the surveyed population: “committed” greens, “material” greens and “enviro-sceptics” (representing respectively 33.5%, 40.3% and 26.3% of the population). Each segment was found to display distinctive socio-demographic attributes, as well as urban geographies. However, few differences were found in relation to each segment’s actual consumption of energy, water, housing space, urban travel and domestic appliances. The research findings indicate that in these areas of urban resource consumption—all principal contributors to the ecological footprint of households—there are sets of factors at work that override attitudes, opinions and intentions as indicators of consumer behaviour. Some of these factors are information, organization and finance related and are the focus of much public policy. However, the persistence of well ingrained habits and practices among individuals and households and the lack of norms and values in western societies that explicitly promote environmental conservation among its population, are fundamentally involved in the attitude-action gap and constitute important avenues for future research and action.

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