Fostering climate change action through sustainable food consumption. The spillover effect of collective engagement in Food Coops

Publicado: 9 diciembre, 2021 en Educación, Educación Ambiental, Medio Ambiente..., Participación Pública, People-Environment Research Group
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I share a new video of my paper presentations at the IAPS 2021 Symposium “Sustainability in the Post-Covid era: Challenges and Opportunities in face of Climate Change and the Energy Transition”, held in the city of A Coruña, from September 29th to October 1st, 2021, A Coruña (Spain).

The paper is entitled «Fostering climate change action through sustainable food consumption. The spillover effect of collective engagement in Food Coops«. It is authored by Isabel Lema Blanco, Ricardo García Mira  and  Jesús Miguel Muñoz Cantero,  from the University of A Coruña (Spain).

The abstract of the paper is the following:

Green consumption has become the focus of research on climate action and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles (García-Mira & Dumitru, 2017). However, changing people’s lifestyles involves profound transformations in individual behaviour as well as in market and institutions and research should also put the focus on the interlinkages among individuals, the social groups they are involved in, and the cultural and physical contexts of consumption and lifestyles. Several authors (Kastner & Matthies, 2014) have highlighted the need to empower people, and educate and motivate consumers to be able to seek new opportunities for sustainable behaviour. Further, recent studies in behavioural spillover (Nash et al., 2017) offer potential pathways to foster more sustainable lifestyles, for instance, whether performance of one behaviour influences willingness to engage in a second (desirable) behaviour, although the mechanisms behind spillover effects are not still well understood (Frezza et al., 2019).

The purpose of this study is to deepen the understanding of the role that conscious consumption initiatives play in promoting green lifestyles, investigating the social learning processes nurtured within these organizations and its relevance for the adoption of new climate-relevant behaviours. Following a qualitative approach, a multi-method design was used, which combined three data-collection techniques: participatory observation, document analysis and 26 in-depth interviews with members and ex-members of eight local food coops located in the Galician region (Spain). Interviews explored first the barriers and drivers for sustainable consumption in households, and to what extent engagement in collective forms of consumption fosters further adoption of green lifestyles.

The results identified different barriers that explain people’s resistance towards a more coherent change in their lifestyles. Galician food coops practitioners are well-educated people who share pro-environmental values. However, structural, cultural and psychological barriers have been found as barriers for the adoption of low-carbon behaviours. Second, the findings of the study show that Galician responsible consumption initiatives function as spaces for collective experimentation that favour social learning processes in the individual sphere and in the collective sphere of the participants, transforming shared meanings, competences and structures. Involvement in these sustainable social innovations foster cognitive, relational and skill-related changes in participants.

Peer-to-peer learning processes that increase perceived competence and self-efficacy become crucial dimensions for practitioners to further experience with sustainable lifestyles. Moreover, collective food consumption appears to encourage conscious consumption behaviour such sustaining as vegan or vegetarian diets as well as in other domains in the private sphere, such as reducing energy use in households, low-carbon mobility or frugality lifestyles. This effect appears to be related to the (social) learning processes nurtured within these organizations. Galician food co-ops enhance practitioners’ environmental awareness, changing their mindsets and worldviews as well as increasing their critical thinking capacity and their desire of being more coherent in their daily practices, being more favourable disposed toward sustainable lifestyles. In conclusion, the study highlights the relevance of the social learning processes that emerge within the conscious consumption initiatives that constitute innovative formulas for environmental participation, which appear to foster positive spillover to everyday practice in a variety of lifestyle domains.

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