Managing Green Complexities: Consumers´ strategies and techniques for greener shopping

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The complexities of green consumption are often discussed. Studies bring to fore difficulties of choosing sustainable alternatives in a complex world. How are consumers to know what products to purchase in a market society with global commodity chains? Can consumers really trust corporations' environmental reporting? In arguing this, these studies are giving voice to some of the difficulties and anxieties people have to deal with in a consumer society. As others have argued, consumption involves work and being a consumer is increasingly a laborious and anxiety-producing activity. However, what these studies are missing is the fact that consumers do manage to consume green, at least some of them do. An interesting question is then, how is this complexity managed? The aim of this paper is to contribute to the field of green consumption by illustrating and conceptualizing how consumers practically manage green complexities when performing green shopping. The focus is on shopping practices. Drawing on an ethnographic study of the Nordic Nature Shop – a Swedish retailer chain of outdoor products – and making use of practice theory, this paper shows that consumers have different strategies and techniques to make their shopping practices more sustainable. One strategy used is to shop for things that last. Consumers focused then on finding quality outdoor products with ‘timeless design’. Another strategy included instead consuming less. These consumers had different techniques that aimed at reducing their overall consumption of outdoors products. Finally, there were also those that focused on purchasing green products. Here, two techniques were talked about. While some focused on finding green brands, others looked at the product information in search on information concerning its manufacturing. In sum, the practice-based analysis showed that green complexities are managed through the development of various green shopping strategies. Green shopping, however, is not an uncomplicated accomplishment. Green shopping, the analysis suggests, is knowledge demanding for consumers and requires an enabling/supportive socio-material retailscape
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-492
JournalInternational Journal of Consumer Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • sustainable
  • retail
  • practice theory
  • green consumption
  • shopping


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