Vergragt, Philip J. and Halina Szejnwald Brown. 2016. Fostering and Communicating Sustainable Lifestyles: Principles and Emerging Practices. United Nations Environment Programme - Sustainable Lifestyles, Cities and Industry Branch (UN Environment). [PDF]
"The rich body of literature on communication and lifestyle-related initiatives and policies shows an evolution of the problem framing. Several approaches from the past have been shown to be overly simplistic, ineffective or altogether misplaced. 27 Some of these 'debunked assumptions' include:
· The assumption of ‘consumer-choice’ - that individuals are rational decisionmakers guided by price signals and information. Linked to that is the assumption that appealing to people’s self-interest in the most effective method of changing behaviours. We now know that while price signals and information are important factors for many people and in many situations, they are not universal and not always the most important motivators of behaviour.
· The assumption that individuals can change their consumption behaviours by deciding to do so. We now know that individual consumption choices are conditioned by culture, life experiences, and market forces and are constrained by infrastructure, social practices, and institutions. These often result in “lock-ins” into highly consuming lifestyles.
· The assumption that all we need to do to change individual’s behaviours is to foster a change in values and attitudes. 28 This assumption has led to the discovery of the so-called ‘value-action gap,’ in which people’s attitudes don’t match their behaviours, and has led research and practice to explore the role of emotions, habits, and structures in shaping behaviour. There is also a growing recognition that values and attitudes are very hard to change because they are closely linked to a dominant culture.
· The assumption that “green consumption” is the best way to achieve a sustainable lifestyle. This assumption has been challenged by accumulating evidence that green products and simple acts such as waste recycling have no impact on reducing energy consumption either on an individual or societal level, and that technological solutions are mitigated through rebound effects."