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Buying less is better than buying green – for the environment and mental health: Study

Buying less stuff is better for both the planet and people’s mental health than buying green products, a new study of Millennial shopping habits has found.

The University of Arizona research showed that there are two main categories of pro-environmental behaviour: reduced consumption and the consumption of more environmentally friendly products.

Sabrina Helm, the woman behind the study, said it seemed that concerns for the environment are not likely to stop materialistic people from buying lots of things.

"There is evidence that there are 'green materialists,'" said Helm, an associate professor in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

<who> Photo credit: File

"If you are able to buy environmentally friendly products, you can still live your materialist values. You're acquiring new things, and that fits into our mainstream consumption pattern in our consumer culture, whereas reduced consumption is more novel and probably more important from a sustainability perspective."

When it comes to consumer wellbeing, too, indulging in green materialism can’t match reduced consumption.

"We thought it might satisfy people that they participated in being more environmentally conscious through green buying patterns, but it doesn't seem to be that way," Helm said.

"Reduced consumption has effects on increased well-being and decreased psychological distress, but we don't see that with green consumption."

She added: "If you have a lot of stuff, you have a lot on your mind.

"Maybe you have a lot of debt because you bought all that stuff, and now you have to manage all that stuff. It requires maintenance and being organized. It's not like you buy it and you're done with it. There's a lot of burdens of ownership, and if you relieve yourself of that burden of ownership, most people report feeling a lot better and freer."

Summing up her findings, she said: "The key is to reduce consumption and not just buy green stuff. Having less and buying less can actually make us more satisfied and happier.”

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