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How to Reduce Individuals’ Ecological Footprint without Harming Their Well-Being: An Application to Belgium

Bart Defloor, Brent Bleys, Elsy Verhofstadt and Luc Van Ootegem
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Bart Defloor: Department of Economics, Ghent University, Sint-Pietersplein 5, B-9000 Gent, Belgium

Sustainability, 2022, vol. 14, issue 9, 1-30

Abstract: Human activities are a key driver of many environmental problems the world is facing today, including climate change, the disruption of biogeochemical cycles, and biodiversity loss. Behavioural changes at the individual and household level are needed to reduce humanity’s environmental impact, but people also need the capacity to behave in a sustainable way. If their well-being is negatively impacted or if behaving sustainably is too time consuming or too expensive, people might be less inclined to change their behaviour. In this article, we look at the determinants of different types of pro-environmental behaviour and how these are associated with their experienced levels of well-being. More specifically, we focus on the determinants of behaviours that influence both the ecological footprint (EF) and satisfaction with life. In our analysis we include socio-demographic characteristics and a number of psychological antecedents of pro-environmental behaviour (PEB). The data we use was collected in Flanders (Belgium) and allows us to calculate the EF of each respondent individually. Our main conclusions are threefold. First, even if individuals are provided with opportunities to behave in a more sustainable way, they do not always do so (e.g., richer people on average have a higher EF). Efforts could be put in place at the collective side (e.g., public infrastructure) to stimulate people to reduce their environmental impact. Second, as we distinguish seven EF components, we are able to show differential effects of each of the determinants. Third, the association between PEB and satisfaction with life is not strong: only the type of housing is significantly associated with satisfaction with life. Related to that, the psychological antecedents of PEB are only associated with the EF, not with satisfaction with life.

Keywords: ecological footprint; life satisfaction; pro-environmental behaviour (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O13 Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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