“Better to give away experiences than things”

Meet Oksana Mont, Sweden’s only Professor of Sustainable Consumption.

How can our consumption become more sustainable?

“A major aspect is promoting sustainable lifestyles rather than just sustainable products. Many companies do not work to develop sustainable products, even if this should be the norm.”

How can companies and shops reduce their overall impact on the climate?

“They need to think about the entire product chain. Take a furniture factory, for example. It is not sufficient to save energy in the factory itself; they also have to make sure that they buy climate-friendly materials and that the furniture can be repaired and re-used. Companies often focus too much on their own activities and forget the rest.”

As a private consumer, how am I to know which products meet the mark?

“I would like to encourage the authorities to remove products that damage people’s health or the environment rather than putting environmental labels on good products, although if we take the example of cigarettes, we can see that it is not that easy. It is difficult to demonstrate consumer awareness if this means going through the 25 000 products that are found in a modern department store to find the organic and sustainable products. Would it not be easier and more efficient for customers to navigate through 5 000 sustainable products?”

How can companies earn money from sustainable lifestyles?

“There is a growing trend towards giving away gifts in the form of experiences. There are great opportunities here to create economic growth with low emissions. Perhaps it would be better to give away a massage, a visit to the cinema or a cookery course instead of a shirt.”

In the future, will we have as many possessions as we do today?

“It’s difficult to say. But we are seeing a growing trend known as ‘collective consumption’. This means people are part of a network where they have access to objects without having to buy them. Examples are car pooling and leasing children’s car seats. It ensures more efficient usage of products that have already been manufactured and reduces emissions. This is another way companies could earn money.”

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