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Survey Results II: Conscious Consumers and Activism

By Margaret Willis - PhD candidate, Boston College


We have seen that respondents to the 2008 survey were not only conscious consumers, they also tended to be actively involved in various forms of political activities in support of conscious consumption causes.


On a more local level, respondents were also talking frequently to friends, family, and even strangers about conscious consumption, sending emails, and participating in community events and projects (Table 2).


Table 2 Responses to “How often do you…” for the following social involvement items

("cc" is conscious consumption):

























































































Never

%



Monthly/a few

times a year

%



Almost

weekly

%



Almost

daily

%



Number of respondents



Talk to friends about cc



5



47



35



13



1752



Talk to family about cc



5



42



32



20



1721



Talk to others I know about cc



15



52



26



7



1703



Talk to strangers about cc



45



44



10



2



1714



Forward emails / news articles about cc



13



56



23



9



1755



Write a personal email or letter about cc



40



44



13



3



1735



 



Range



Average



% often†



 



 



Participate in festivals or symbolic actions related to conscious consumption



1-7



3.43



16



 



1818



Get involved in projects about conscious consumption issues



1-7



2.78



10



 



1719



† Percent answering 6 or 7 on a scale of 1(never) to 7(often)


We found that higher levels of consistency in conscious consumption practices across everyday decisions about food, goods, water, energy, transportation, and services, were significantly associated with higher levels of political participation (as measured using the items in Table 1) – even after controlling for age, education, income, the amount of information one seeks out about these issues, whether other people in one’s social circles are conscious consumers, whether one lives in a city, suburb, small town, or the country, and other control variables.  Using the same control variables, higher levels of consistency in conscious consumption practices were also significantly associated with higher levels of social participation (as measured using the items in Table 2).   So, for many, concerns about the environment and well-being are not forgotten after the checkout aisle.  To the contrary, conscious consumption for many of the respondents seems to be part of a lifestyle of broader social and political awareness and involvement.












Margaret Willis

Margaret is working on a doctorate in Sociology at Boston College

We also learned that, try as we might to make a detailed and inclusive survey about conscious consumption, there were a number of practices that we left out.  Many respondents took the time to let us know about the things that they do conscientiously to benefit their households, their communities, and beyond, that were not included in the survey.  Conscious consumption is, in many cases, less about sticking with one fixed set of “best” practices, and more about acknowledging that sometimes what is most sustainable, healthy, or just may change from day to day.  In fact, many respondents reported that they do substantial research on the issues and different practices using email lists, books, documentaries, and blogs and websites.  In spite of uncertainty, many people are doing what they can to live in a way that reflects their values.


Thank you once again to everyone who participated!

Tags: Activism, Activist, Consumer, Data, Politics, Survey

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