Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

Green Consumerism

By Caitlin Douglas

Be sustainable. The answer is pretty simple right – consume less. But is it that simple ……..

In a recent article in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Gibson et al. (2011) discuss the interface between climate change, household consumption and sustainability.  The authors asked interesting questions such as whether the impacts of transporting items sold on EBay outweigh their re-use value, and whether eating local food actually reduces greenhouse gas emissions.  They also described the conundrum when choosing between two different ‘sustainable’ options, such as whether to re-use plastic supermarket bags for bin liners, or whether to shop using reusable bags and then buy bin liners.

Such debates can be tiring and confusing. What can one do? Well Naresh Ramchandani and Andy Hobsbawm may have the answer for you in the form of Green Thing:

‘Green Thing is for those of us – and there’s a lot of us – who don’t get turned on by the tree-hugging thing, the guilt thing, the scientific thing or the world-is-at-an-end thing. Green Thing is a simple thing, a fun thing, a creative thing and a community thing. It’s for anyone who wants to lead a greener life but hasn’t found a way.’ (Green Thing Website 2010)

So I encourage you to give the Green Thing a chance, its innovative approach to sustainability may be just what you are looking for.

Gibson et al. 2011.Climate change and household dynamics: beyond consumption, unbounding sustainability. Trans Inst Br Geogr 36:3-8

Green Thing Website


  1. With you on this one Caitlin. I think what really needs addressing is the impact of certain green actions on a ‘hierarchy of effectiveness’ i.e. Re-cycling clothes (ignoring the impact on 3rd world economies that undoubtedly suffere everytime someone in the west recycles their jumper) versus total ban on free issue of plastic bags.
    Another look at incentivisation of people to reduce waste- is there an opportunity for ‘reverse’ incentives?
    I am allocated approx £5000 per year paid monthly with my salary (tax free element) for travelling. If I don’t use the total £ annually then I get to keep the change, any excess over the £5K is taxable. This makes me think hard and long whether or not to make the journey.

  2. Very intersting point about reverse incentives Mike. I think you are on to something as I could see this type of green approach being very effective. Thanks for the post!

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