Creatures of Consumer Habits

The recent introduction of the five pence charge for single use carrier bags, got me thinking about how easy it is, or perhaps more likely, how difficult it is, to change the everyday habits of a nation.

The Government reports that the five pence charge, already levied in Wales has led to a 79% decrease in the use of plastic bags over a three year period in this country, which is a phenomenal result.

Will the same, relatively simple, edict have the same result in England?

There is of course, an already committed group of consumers, who for environmental reasons, perhaps, have already fully embraced the ‘bag for life’ concept.

And, I suspect that there are many like myself who support the environmental initiative but haven’t quite got used to remembering to take a bag with them. Embarrassingly ridiculous I know. But, it just hasn’t made its way into my everyday habits – yet.

And of course, there is a further section of our community that think it is outrageous, that a charge should be levied at all. I have heard stories from friends that work at the front end of retail that some customers are refusing to pay the five pence charge. In fact they are making a very visual point of leaving the shop, laden down with as many goods as they can carry in their arms.

I just love how diverse our population is!

How we think, how we behave, what might make the grade as a new habit, how far are we prepared to go to make a point, at what price point will we embrace something new, what motivates change etc etc.

I’m no psychologist, and so won’t be making any claims to understand many of the contributing factors, but isn’t it fascinating?

I bought into the five a day campaign, and still do, trying to incorporate more fruit and vegetables into my diet. And the Change4Life campaign still makes me think that I spend far too much time in front of a screen!

But, national statistic figures released in March 2015 reveal that There was a marked increase in the proportion of adults that were obese from 13.2 per cent in 1993 to 26.0 per cent in 2013 for men, and from 16.4 per cent to 23.8 per cent for women. The proportions that were overweight including obese increased from 57.6 per cent to 67.1 per cent in men and from 48.6 per cent to 57.2 per cent in women.

So, despite best intentions and I suspect a shed load of investment, these campaigns are failing – big time!
One thing I do know. There is no easy fix to changing consumer habits. And, there is absolutely no such thing as a typical consumer.

The demographic groups of the 70s and 80s simply do not apply to today’s consumer. You can no longer group people into clear cut neat groups and treat them all the same.

I try to embrace easy to implement actions that have a long term positive environmental impact, and so will be striving never to spend five pence on a bag again!  I hope that others will do the same.  I am going to put a note in my diary to review my own and the nation’s behaviour in a year’s time.

What are your predictions?

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