Green consumerism entangles placing enormous focus on the consumption of products, which people deem as environmentally benign, with the intensions to save the environment from harm or damage.
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Campaigns to inculcate the concepts of green consumerism are on and echoed in an abundant way all over the world but the question as to whether “green marketing contribute to the greening of a states consciousness, or whether it does encourage corporate green washing” (Marie 2004, p.1) remain.
Going green means more than just buying biodegradable products such as consuming pineapples packed in containers with biodegradable lids. The concepts also imply consumption of products, which cause less harm to the environment.
Driving a hybrid car, which has less hazardous emissions compared to the convectional cars as well employing the use of cookers that emit less heat into the environment, responds to the green consumerism ideologies.
It therefore stands out that the environment faces the challenge of environmental degradation attributed to the depletion of ozone layer, which again is a consequence of the manner in which the environment is treated. The problem needs a solution but green consumerism, given the characteristics of the consumer, amounts to nothing but a band-aid solution.
The design of products borrows lots of contribution from what the consumers desire in order to fulfill their need. Ways in which customers arrive at decisions on what to buy or what not to buy dependents on a number of factors but more importantly on the buying power.
Manufacturers only venture in production of products, which suit the demand of the consumers who seem guided by subscriptions to different ethical positions.
The work of Marie (2004, p.1) indicate that “such ethical position means that eco-marketers must carefully frame their environmental products in a way that appeals to consumers with environmental ethics and buyers who consider natural products as well as conventional items.”
It’s hence paramount to evaluate situations that fail to promote the prosperity of green consumerism. For consumerism development, some preconditions are prerequisite.
The green consumerism does not contribute significantly to subjective well being (SWB). Green products consequently fail to foster economic development.
“Economic development increases SWB by creating a cultural environment where individuals make choices to maximize their happiness rather than meet social obligations” (Ahuvia 2001, 25). In its pure sense, green consumerism is a social obligation aimed at encouraging consumer to make selections of products that are friendly to the environment.
The campaign to woo the consumers to change their purchasing habits should assure them that the shift suggested translate to happier state than the former habit.
The work of Ahuvia (2001, p.25) sheds light that this is because “ the cultural transformation away from obligation and toward the pursuit of happiness is part of a broader transition away from collectivism and toward individualists cultural values and forms of social organization.”
Green consumerism ideologies do not give substantial links between their deployment and contribution to altering the consumer’s cultural values so that a spontaneous shift towards their embracement can take place among all consumers at individual level.
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Given that green consumerism is no more than a concept anticipated as adopted by people and have thus not been inculcated in their practices, advocating for them definitely interests consumers collectively. However, “collectivism is a social mechanism for organizing and enforcing group cooperation” (Ahuvia 2001, p.26).
Unfortunately, collective reciprocation of consumers towards attention on green consumerism lasts for a while based on its erosion by forces like wealth endowment discrepancies.
For example, in spite of existence of hybrid vehicles, which consume less fuel compared to the giant luxurious fuel consumers, some consumers still go for the latter, which gives them a better social class feel.
The fact that the luxurious vehicles extract many resources from the environment makes them less green but again, yet consumed!
Ahuvia’s deductions that “…people in individualistic countries tend, on average to be happier than people living in collective societies” (Ahuvia 2001, p.27) further complicates the perception that green consumerism would result to an ample solution to save the environment.
Secondly, consumers’ ignorance makes the green consumerism no more than a band-aid solution. Giddens (2003, p.390) confirms this when he says that “…people have similarly skeptical attitude towards ads, by large. They often switch off or go out of the room while they are on.”
To change shopping styles of the consumers credibly, intensive awareness on the benefits of green consumerism demand are with no doubt paramount.
How possible is it to convince buyers to purchase commodities that they do not pay attention to get to know what they constitute? Despite big ignorance to ads on the consumer’s side, Green products do not have specific identities that ads anchors can impose on masses.
Modernism has resulted into diminished advertiser’s ability to manipulate the consumers. Instead, companies produce products rather not to sell but to merge what the consumers want. If that is the case, then how often do consumers take into consideration the ideologies of consumerism when giving birth to new needs that require new products to satisfy them?
Additional challenges to green consumerism emanate from the fact that no manufacturers would be willing if they have their sole uncompromised freedom of choosing what to produce not to produce in response to the consumer demand. Whether the consumer demands green or not the manufacturer will still respond as appropriate.
The issue of choice comes in handy when it comes to supporting the claim concerning green consumerism. Consumers encounter a tyranny of choices that seem worth making. With the vast differences between various consumers, tastes and preferences it follows that deferent people have different values to articulate to products that they purchase.
The problem of such vast tastes and preferences places the concepts of green consumerism at risk since. Schwartz (2004, p.15) argues, “If you’re content choosing among three different kinds of breakfast cereal, or six television stations, you can simply ignore the dozens or hundreds that get added to your supermarket shelves.”
Introducing more products labeled green or fair deal on top of the existing convectional products only increases the number of choices that consumers need to make. Unfortunately, according to Schwartz (2004, p.25), for the consumers who are already satisfied with none green products might not have a room for accommodating the environmentally benign products.
The concept of green consumerism restricts itself to maximization of resources. As a way of example, making use of recycled products rather than products made from virgin materials. Simply the concept seeks to transform the society into that dominated by maximization ideologies.
The ‘maximizers’ “as opposed to satisfiers, go shopping for big items or small ones, they spend more time looking, have a harder time deciding, look around more at what others are buying…”(Schwartz 2004, 27 ).
Since green consumerism definitely gives room for more products, with regard to the work of Schwartz, it would give rise to a confused pool of buyers and consequently serve to be just a band-aid solution.
Consumer’s freedom of choice threatens green consumerism. The modern world confers people with freedom of choice, which is absolute. The challenge rests on convincing a predetermined mind not to buy what it intended in supermarket floor.
Such an attempt would be received with enormous antagonism citing the foundation upon which complains are registered on dissolution of freedom of choice. The problem is not that green consumerism here is not significant towards fostering emergence of different races of people who appreciate mechanisms of getting a greener environment.
It becomes evident that “…we have no choice but to choose, yet there seems little possibility of knowing our choices to be correct or to be correct for a very long” (Giddens 2003, p.387).
The challenge, which deems green consumerism not a significant strategy for achieving a benign environment, rests on the capacity of the consumers to limit individually their freedom of choice for the sake of green environment.
Collective movement of consumers to abundance consumption of green products is not very simple unless in a situation like when “the needs of the Chinese were determined by the state and, often than not poorly accommodated” (Ho 1997, p.16). In such a scenario, endorsement of green consumerism attempts is possible accompanied by high probabilities of success.
The requirement that there be middle class of consumers that grows so as a rapid movement on consumer consumption patterns to emerge makes the green consumerism non feasible. “…These are people who are most capable of feeling and expressing their dissatisfaction in the exchange process and instigating consumerist activities” (Ho 1997, p.16).
A critical group of middle class people therefore becomes vital to spearhead the process of acceptance of green products as opposed to convectional non-environmental benign products. The condition demand consumer awareness on the benefits of green consumerism and emphasizes on the need for collective cooperation.
Unfortunately, the notion of collectivity contradicts with (Ahuvia 2001, p.27) “…people in individualistic countries tend, on average to be happier than people living in collective societies”. Furthermore, the demands placed by the requirement on the need for awareness faces contempt since the modern society is not sufficiently manipulated by advertisements.
Inadequate consumer participations in green consumerism forums pose a big blow to the ideologies of green consumerism as exemplified by a study conducted in China in 1994.
The study focused to identify the consumer knowledge on issues related to consumerism. “35 percent did not know they had the right to be accurately informed about the products and services they bought and used” (Ho 2001, p.17).
As per the results of the study, it passes for a paradox for consumers to shift into green consumerism if in the first instance they are miss-informed or under informed about the environmentally hazardous products they consume.
Another study conducted in 1995 in China evidenced that “those who encountered problems in the exchange process, only 4% complained to the consumer associations while about 40% took no action at all” (Ho 1997, p.17).
For sustenance of green consumerism culture, people must have the relevant information with their consumer rights, bleach, which makes them aggrieved and seek legal regress.
Misunderstanding what consumerism is all about, yet forms another impediment toward green consumerism. The term consumerism is only meaningful if it refers to act of buying and its associated patterns and behavior.
Giddens (2003, p.395) noted that, “it’s about trying to make people to buy cars through making them sexy, for example, not all other issues. It is hard to define what a consumer is unless it’s someone who is buying something.”
The causes of the degradation and deterioration of the environment do not have any relationship with consumerism. Concerns on environmental degradation ought to be blamed on traditional, cultural and nature transformation.
Contradictions amongst those who call themselves green environmentalists garner possibilities of green consumerism as being purely unrealizable.
For example, the study conducted by Prothero and Connolly between 2002 and 2004 reveal that consumer claims of their environmental consciousness was not reflected by actual purchasing behaviors.
Prothero and Connolly commented that one of their interviewees claimed to avoid junk food but “at the same time, her diaries show purchases of crisps, popcorns and chocolate on almost daily basis” (Prothero & Connolly 2002, p.127).
The capacity of masses of people to embrace the concepts gets barriers since the process of changing from one lifestyle to another invite controversies.
Many focus at the anticipated results, which for green consumerism are quite promising but the protocol to obtain exactly that seems too hard to go by. Therefore, based on the expositions made in the paper, it suffices to declare green consumerism no more than a band-aid solution.
Ahuvia, C., 2002. Individualism/Collectivism and Cultures of Happiness. Journal of Happiness and Studies, 3(1), 23-36.
Ho, S., 1997. Business Horizons. The Emergence of Consumer Power in China, 2(1), 15-21.
Giddens, A., 2003. An Interview with Anthony Giddens. Journal of Consumer Culture, 3(3), 387-399.
Marie, A., 2004. Ethics and the Environmental. The aesthetic turn on green marketing, 9(2), 86-102.
Prothero, A., & Connolly, J., 2002. Green Consumption. Web.
Schwartz, B., 2004. The Tyranny of Choice. Scientific American Mind, 50(20), 15-37.