Understanding the Attitude-Behavior Gap in the Context of Green Consumption Behavior

Understanding the Attitude-Behavior Gap in the Context of Green Consumption Behavior

F. Gül Aygen Ispahi
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-6750-3.ch012
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The purpose of this chapter is to delineate the attitude-behavior gap phenomenon as it relates to green consumption behavior, an important component of environmental sustainability considerations. After a brief introduction to the topic, a number of possible explanations for the gap are reviewed. Some of the viable steps to overcome the associated problems—in light of various actions that can be taken by governments/public policy makers, environmental non-governmental organizations, the business sector, and individual consumers—are considered in the discussion section. Suggestions for future research and some concluding remarks follow, which, altogether, try to shed some light on the issue and hence encourage consumers be more involved—rather than just concerned—with the environmental betterment of the planet.
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Despite the immense amount of technological developments taking place, one of the main problems of our day is environmental deterioration. Global warming from fossil fuels, poor governance, food waste, biodiversity loss, plastic pollution, deforestation, air pollution, melting ice caps and sea level rise, ocean acidification, agricultural issues, food and water insecurity, together with fast fashion and textile waste have been cited by Robinson (2022) as being the twelve biggest environmental problems of 2022.

Due both to biodiversity loss and degradation and also to damages given to the ecosystems, every region in the World is expected to be confronted with huge risks, in the near future: In terrestrial ecosystems, up to 14% of a great variety of species are expected to face a very high risk of extinction at global warming levels of 1.5°C. On the other hand, risk of biodiversity loss ranges between moderate to very high by 1.5°C global warming level, in case of ocean and coastal ecosystems. Likewise, hazards related to water and water availability are also expected to increase in many regions, with risks being more at higher global warming levels. Moreover, change in climate will most likely affect food production and access to food adversely, especially in the rather less-developed regions of the World. What is more, due to global warming, soil health will continuously be weakened which, in turn, will lead to pest and disease increases and a reduction in marine animal biomass, eroding food productivity on land and in the oceans. Leaving aside the economic damages, unfortunately, various diseases (either food, water, or vector-borne), ill health, heat-related mortality, and premature deaths are also expected to increase due mainly to climate change and extreme events related to this change. Besides, further global warming is also expected to affect mental health of different populations and lead to an increase in various psychological problems such as anxiety and stress. Along with many other drastic changes, higher global warming levels are anticipated to lead to extremities in weather and climate, particularly to drought, which might end up in violent intrastate conflicts, as well (IPCC, 2022).

All these problems, together with the issues of overpopulation and depletion of natural resources, make it necessary for different stakeholders to take urgent measures and act more responsibly toward the betterment of the environment.

With respect to these stakeholders, this responsibility belongs not only to governments, non-governmental organizations, or the business sector worldwide, but also to individual consumers. Even if one would be tempted to think that the above mentioned wide-ranging, hard-to-solve problems cannot be dealt with by individual consumer efforts, given that consumer household purchases are responsible for 40% of the environmental damage (Joshi and Rahman, 2015), it is “crucial to acknowledge and accept that individual behavior both significantly contributes to global environmental challenges and that individual behavioral change has the potential to reduce this impact significantly” (Klöckner, 2013, p.1030).

In fact, such a change may be initiated by pro-environmental behaviors and green consumption practices. When talking about pro-environmental behavior, one refers to actions undertaken consciously by an individual so as to bring the negative impact of his/her activities on the environment, to a minimum (Kollmuss and Agyeman, 2002). Examples of pro-environmental behavior include purchasing environmentally friendly products, recycling, using water, electricity and electrical appliances carefully at homes, avoiding to buy products that harm the environment or that cause environmental damage, using public rather than private transportation, and taking part in profit or not-for-profit environmental organizations (Kalamas et al., 2014). Relatedly, green consumption practices refer to consumption behaviors that an individual perceives to have either no impact or a minimum or reduced impact on the environment (Johnstone and Tan, 2015). Likewise, green products are produced so as to minimize natural resource exploitation, toxic material usage, or waste and pollutant emissions (Yan et al., 2021). As such, pro-environmental behaviors and green consumption practices are important topics in environmental sustainability considerations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Green Consumption Behavior: Selecting, purchasing, using, and disposing of products/services in such a way so as to give the least amount of harm to the environment.

Sustainable Development: An approach to the process of growth and progress whereby societies meet their needs taking into consideration the coming generations, as well.

Attitude-Behavior Gap: A notion which implies that consumers do not always do the things they think/say they would like to do.

Sustainable Development Goals: Strategic aims set up in 2015 by the UN that are targeted at a better, healthier, and more prosperous future for us all.

Green Consumer: An individual who is considerate of the environment in which he/she lives.

Environmental Sustainability: Acting responsibly towards the environment so as to preserve its quality both for the prevailing and coming generations.

Pro-Environmental Behavior: All possible actions taken by individuals so as to protect the environment.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 12): One of the 17 sustainable development goals aimed at enhancing production and consumption practices that enable a move towards more sustainable patterns.

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