issues and experts

Is being green good for you? Engaging in eco-friendly behaviours can promote well-being—SFU study

November 06, 2017

A study led by SFU researchers Michael Schmitt, Lara Aknin and Jonn Axsen has revealed that the more frequently North Americans engage in eco-friendly behaviours (EFB) the more they report satisfaction with their lives.

“These findings run counter to what many people and policy makers tend to assume about trying to convince people to change their current habits and choosing eco-friendly behaviours,” says Schmitt.

In the study, published by Ecological Economics, the SFU team, along with co-author Rachael Shwom at Rutgers University, found that behaviours that were more costly in terms of time, money and effort were more strongly related to life satisfaction than behaviours that had lower costs.

The researchers also found that eco-friendly behaviours that involved meaningful interactions with other people, such as buying food at a farmer’s market to promote sustainability, were more strongly linked to life satisfaction.

The researchers analyzed how performing a variety of EFBs predicted life satisfaction among people in Canada and the U.S. All but two of the 39 EFBs analyzed were positively related to life satisfaction. This shows that the relationship generalizes across many different types of EFBs, which range from turning off the tap while brushing your teeth to participating in local environmental activities.

“These findings have important implications for how we think about changing our behaviours in ways that we need to, if we want to mitigate climate change and other environmental problems,” says Schmitt.

“Instead of thinking of these changes only in terms of what they cost us, individuals and policy makers need to see eco-friendly behaviours as opportunities to do good for the environment, for humans and for other species. As contributions to the well-being of others, eco-friendly behaviours offer opportunities to experience a meaningful and satisfied life.”

Fast Facts:

  • In 2009, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson implemented the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan
  • The UN Climate Change Conference takes place November 6-17, 2017 in Bonn Germany, at which representatives from nearly 200 countries coordinate efforts to curb the worst effects of climate change.
  • According to the Pew Research Centre, 84 per cent of Canadians and 69 per cent of Americans support limiting their countries' greenhouse gas emissions
  • According to the Pew Research Centre, 73 per cent of Canadians and 66 per cent of Americans believe that people must make major lifestyle changes to reduce the effects of climate change
  • From 1880 to 2012, the global average surface temperature increased by 0.85°C
  • Primary causes for global warming: the increased volumes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released by the burning of fossil fuels, land clearing, agriculture, and other human activities
  • In 2016, Carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere reach the record level of 403.3 parts per mission last year, a level the planet hasn’t seen in over 3 million years
  • Eco-friendly consumer product market is valued at over $40bn
  • Carmaker Volvo announced plans to phase out gas-only car production by 2019
  • General Motors announced plans to produce 100 percent electric vehicles and ditch gas and diesel-powered vehicles

Link to study:

Michael Schmitt, Psychology, 778.782.4342, 604-992-1066,
Lara Aknin, Psychology, 604-729-9571,
Justin Wong, University Communications, 778.782.3035/778.782.5151,