The school strikes by Greta Thunberg and her followers had a tangible impact on consumer behavior. Research in Switzerland shows that nearly one in three have changed their behaviour.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg became known around the world in 2019 Friday for FutureThe campaign was followed by about 4 million students in 150 countries. Much has been written about its impact on policy, but no research has been conducted to date on its impact on consumer behavior.
A Swiss study in the journal Sustainability Science changes that. “We looked specifically at people in Switzerland who did not participate in the protests,” says researcher Livia Fritz. “We wanted to see if the movement led to tangible changes in their behavior.”
“Our findings show that people are becoming more aware of how their behavior affects the environment.”
Scientists conducted a survey among 1,206 Swiss consumers in October and November 2019, shortly after the peak of the protests. In doing so, they asked general questions about respondents’ environmental habits and more specific questions about changes in their habits.
It appears that the majority of respondents had a positive attitude towards both Thunberg and the wider public Friday for Future-a movement. Surprisingly, this also translated into tangible changes in their daily habits: nearly 30 percent reported a change.
“Our research only looked at people’s perception of their behavior, and we did not aim to verify their statements,” says Fritz. “But our findings show that people are becoming more aware of how their behavior affects the environment and that big shifts are happening at the individual level.”
Transportation, purchasing behavior and recycling
Most reported changes occurred in three areas of respondents’ daily lives: transportation, purchasing behavior, and recycling. For example, people reported that they began to look for alternatives to the car, choosing holiday destinations closer to home to avoid having to travel by plane. They say they seek out local organic produce more often and eat more plant-based meals. They are more likely to make efforts to reduce waste, especially plastic.
“Our research shows that this type of citizen activism can have a direct impact on society,” says Fritz. “We also see that individual-level changes can lead to broader societal changes, provided they are at the same time supported by political action. Both drivers are essential if we are to achieve long-term results in the time frame needed to mitigate global warming.”
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