Let’s say all your best buddies love biking and prefer it over taking the car. Seeing as it is the norm for them to be moving around together in little herds of wheels and helmets, you might be more inclined to join the biking troops instead of taking the car alone and following their taillights through the window.
Why? Because you’re more likely to behave more environmentally aware when it is easy and when there is a social push for it.
We are lazy little creatures governed by proven habits developed over the years to simplify our daily lives and save some precious time. So why then, if we are Masters of our own actions, do we not have the whole environmentally conscious population ditching cars and just cycling around? Where are the citywide two-wheeler highways?
The answer is lurking away in our surroundings, in the prevailing attitudes of society and in various contextual factors. The context and the social setting you find yourself in can either push you towards more environmentally balanced or, alternatively, more burdensome choices as discussed during our lecture. If a certain behavior is the pervasive norm, you are more likely to go with it. Additionally, if an action doesn’t require you to put your pinky toe out of your physical (or mental ) comfort zone, you are even more likely to do it.
In other words, convenience and comfort go hand in hand with our choices. Let’s say now that you live in a country where the forecast is ruled by rain and snow instead of superb sunny skies –the threshold to hop on that two-wheeled city-limousine of yours might be way higher than taking the car or the public transport…especially if you are going to such a type of (working) environment where you are expected to look remotely presentable. In which case pushing through the traffic while wiping your hair out of your face and arriving at the office looking like a dripping creature from Mordor probably doesn’t sit very high on your convenience/comfort scale.
Our routine consumption habits are also controlled by our conceptions of normality and are greatly shaped by cultural and economic narratives. How often is it considered “normal” to take a shower for instance? And is it the norm to shave your legs with a Gillette Venus with the water running in order to Reveal the Goddess in You?
(…and although biking is cool and sustainable, the weather in Finland for example is sometimes way too cool and going the extra mile to wiggle into MichelinMan- style outdoor gear every morning to bike to wherever just doesn’t feel so attractive. Or convenient. Or easy for that matter.)
If we want to better the world via consumption, we need businesses (among others) to tell better stories and make those stories stick in society. Healthier, cleaner and more responsible products and services should be accompanied by appropriate messaging to generate greater positive change in our behavior.