woman cycling


Empirical Evidence on Sustainable Behavior and Individual's Well-Being

A green lifestyle brings a smile, a rhyme tried and true. Recent research published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows a direct correlation between the two. 

It has been uncovered that people associate eco-friendly actions with positive emotions, even when those actions require extra effort or sacrifice. Take biking to work instead of driving, for instance. Sure, it requires physical exertion and longer travel time, but it also reduces emissions and gives you a sense of purpose. Or, consider reusing your shampoo bottle instead of buying a single-use plastic one and opt for a refill. This may require a bit more effort, but it also cuts waste and reduces transport emissions. And let's not forget about recycling, which can be more complicated than simply throwing everything into the same bin. 

So why do people still choose to engage in eco-friendly actions despite these added challenges?

The answer lies in the fact that these actions give people a sense of meaning and purpose, which can elicit positive emotions and a warm glow. When people engage in sustainable behaviors, they feel like they're doing something bigger than themselves. It's a prototypical example of a morally good action, which is what Aristotle described as "doing the right thing for the right reasons." Many people see eco-friendly actions as a way to prevent harm and show care for others, including animals, plants, and even non-living nature such as rocks, water, and air. In other words, acting sustainably is often perceived as a moral choice that can make people feel good about themselves.

Is an eco-friendly lifestyle more commonly associated with wealth?

Now, if you think that feeling good about your eco-friendly actions is only possible for people living in wealthy countries or those who are more well-off, you're wrong. Another research published at the World Economic Forum aimed to answer this question and surveyed nearly 7,000 people from Brazil, China, Denmark, India, Poland, South Africa, and the UK. Interestingly, the results showed that adopting a green lifestyle can boost happiness and improve feelings of well-being for people in both richer and poorer countries. This includes reducing food waste, buying greener products, donating money to environmental campaigns, or getting involved in conservation work. 

But that's not all. At the personal level, the connection between green behavior and well-being was just as strong for those on lower incomes as it was for those in higher income brackets. And, regardless of whether someone considered themselves altruistic or materialistic, their happiness increased equally due to their eco-friendly actions. So, it seems being a "tree hugger" or not really doesn't matter.

Is green behaviour different in different cultures?

Another interesting finding was that the connection between behaviour and well-being varies across cultures. In places typically considered to have a more collectivist social organization and way of seeing the world, like Brazil and China, environmentally beneficial actions that engaged multiple people at once - such as planting trees together - had a particularly profound effect on well-being. However, this effect was not seen in the more individualistic societies examined, like the UK and Denmark. The message is clear - going green can make you happy, no matter where you live, but the way you do it might depend on your culture.


So, if you want to feel happier and more fulfilled, consider making eco-friendly choices in your daily life. It may require a bit of extra effort, but the rewards are worth it. You'll not only be doing your part to protect the planet, but you'll also be giving yourself a sense of purpose and meaning which will make you feel happier and fulfilled. It's a more than win-win situation for everyone and everything.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.