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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Green Consumerism

MADELEINE PAPE

University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs109

Consumer behavior is increasingly being highlighted as one of the central causes of environmental degradation. Whereas in the past the agendas of environmental organizations focused primarily on changing the practices of destructive industries, in recent decades there has been a shift toward asking individual consumers to take responsibility for the consequences of their consumption practices (Spaargaren and Mol 2008). Long-term environmental challenges with global reach, such as climate change, resource depletion, and pollution, are now frequently linked to the daily lifestyles and choices of individuals and households, particularly those of high-income nations.

This change in focus has coincided with the emergence of long-term “sustainable development” goals within national and global responses to environmental degradation. Sustainable development is often defined as economic and social development that meets human needs now without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs (WCED 1987). Broadly speaking, sustainable development recognizes the social consequences at the local and global levels associated with the production and consumption patterns of modern capitalist societies. It became institutionalized at the United Nations World Summit on Environment and Development in 1992, which produced a nonbinding agreement on sustainable development for ...

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