Sustainability makes us happier

Adopting a sustainable lifestyle makes people happier, according to the results of a social experiment conducted by the packaging manufacturer Tetra Pak. Even simple renewable habits boost happiness — and preserve the planet’s resources.

The packaging company Tetra Pak conducted the world’s first social experiment to see if sustainable lifestyle habits can have an impact on personal happiness.

Over the course of 28 days, 10 bloggers from around the world – two each from France, Spain, Brazil, India and the US – were asked to incorporate a renewable habit every day, such as cycling or walking instead of driving or choosing products in packaging made of renewable materials at the grocery store instead of plastic.

Participants were asked to record weekly video diaries detailing their progress and highlighting their positive experiences or challenges related to the renewability challenge. They were also emailed every evening to ask if they had engaged in sustainable behaviour that day, how easy or difficult it had been and how it made them feel.

At the end of the challenge, all participants reported increased levels of happiness as these lifestyle changes became habitual.

“The results of the experiment suggest that the barriers impeding widespread adoption of environmentally-responsible habits can be overcome,” writes Tetra Pak in a summary of the experiment. “Our work shows that the gap between the way people feel about the environment and how they actually act can be bridged by providing an incentive for people to practice what they preach, as increasing happiness is an enticing prospect for anyone.”

According to Tetra Pak, the results have implications far beyond the experiment: consumers have the power to change not only their lives, but the lives of those around them and even spur on the creation of a generation of sustainability-minded citizens.

Tetra Pak has now published a list of ideas that people can include in their everyday life to make the transition to a sustainable lifestyle, such as starting small and starting now, choosing renewable resources over recycling, and seeking support from family, friends and even social media to stay motivated.

Global Footprint Network, which published a summary of the Tetra Pak study, offers a few concrete tips that consumers can take to protect the world’s natural resources, including refill a water bottle, bring reusable shopping bags to the store or take a shorter shower.

“When more people adopt simple, renewable lifestyle behaviours, the cumulative impact on our planet adds up,” it writes in a statement on the study.


Image credit: Jason Reibold, flickr/Creative Commons

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