Consuming the environment: antecedents and consequences of interaction and engagement with the natural environment Supported by the British Academy Small Grants Scheme (start date June 2010)
Co Investigators Dr Diane Holt and Dr Patrick McCole.
This pilot study develops user profiles of environmental attitudes, values, and actions from a sample of individuals who participate in activities associated with the use and ''consumption'' of our natural resources. It seeks to develop a typology based on psychographic, behavioural and profile dimensions that replicates and extends the work of previous green consumerism studies. Utilising a survey based methodology we collect data from members of special interest groups (e.g. Ramblers Association, British Canoe Union, Sub Aqua Association, and National Trust) using online data capture alongside a survey administered in the field at a range of sites across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Many of the previous studies on green consumerism classify individuals based on buying behaviour and activities in the home (e.g. Gilg et al. 2005; McDonald et al. 2006; Rex and Baumann, 2006). The environmental education literature has sought to inculcate green values through educational experiences, including those associated with day trips to environments with high levels of natural capital. Yet within the literature there are clear indications of a gap between espoused environmental values and actual green behaviours (e.g. Peattie, 1999). The concept of green ''purchasing'' has been widened to include the notion of experiential purchases of services such as tourism where greener forms of tourism reduce visitor impacts but may also contribute to ecosystems / species preservation by generating an economic value associated with natural environments.
However, individuals also use the natural environment for leisure-orientated activities where their experiences are related to aspects such as the excitement of climbing, or the health benefits of cycling. When individuals participate in experiences associated with nature there are associated economic, social, and environmental impacts. Yet the experiences themselves may also have an impact on the individual – in essence this is what environmental education seeks to achieve through the transference of knowledge and influencing an individual''s appreciation of such environments.
Previous typologies of green consumers have not considered the influence of participatory experiences on shaping green consumer profiles. Only recently have studies started to conceptualise the links between environmental values / concerns, socio-demographic variables and psychological factors (Gilg et al. 2005) as part of a transformation towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
Thus the research objectives of this study are:
- To present a meta-analysis of previous green consumerism typologies and those from related extant fields;
- To design a survey based research instrument that will capture data on the environmental beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of individuals (as part of a theory of reasoned behaviour) that replicates and extends the work of previous studies;
- To administer this survey to individuals who are participating in activities associated with the use of natural resources via an online survey to special interest group members, and through fieldwork in areas where individuals engage with the natural environment;
- To develop a green consumer typology through cluster analysis;
- To explore and classify the characteristic of each cluster; and
-To consider how such engagement activities may act as influential factors in shaping personal beliefs and attitudes and potentially resultant behaviour.