Everything comes with a price. It seems that the price tag environmentally friendly bags meant to promote a green mindset is to the detriment of our own health: a new study suggests that “eco bags” cause people to buy more junk food. The study has been published in the Journal of Marketing.
The researchers of the new study, a team from Harvard and Duke University in the US, found that bringing one’s own shopping bag with the intent to protecting the environment affects what one ultimately buys from the store. The research is the first of its kind to put forward the argument that the use of eco-friendly shopping bags impacts on consumer behaviour. One would have expected that “green bags” would be only beneficial to us. Rather, it seems to have side-effects.
The researchers say that bringing our own bags does cause us to buy healthy food like organic products, but at the same time, leads us to also incline towards unhealthy snacks as a reward for the conscious efforts towards green lifestyles. Furthermore, bags of those types are large enough to include the guilty pleasure.
“[The] same shoppers often feel virtuous, because they are acting in an environmentally responsible way,” say co-authors Uma Karmarkar and Bryan Bollinger. “That feeling easily persuades them that, because they are being good to the environment, they should treat themselves to cookies or potato chips or some other product with lots of fat, salt, or sugar.”
Ironically, it seems that people are often taking steps backward on their way to developing greener attitudes.
Another finding involved shopping with children. Based on the results, buying organic and junk foods occurred to a lesser degree, as a result of the adults “diluting” their own personal preferences in favour of their motivations as parents.
If this behaviour is really true, it can be exploited by grocery managers.
“Our findings thus have important implications for grocery store managers,” explain Karmarkar and Bollinger. “In stores where reusable bags are popular, marketing organic or sustainably farmed foods as indulgences could increase the sales of those items.”