The rebound effects of switching to vegetarianism. A microeconomic analysis of Swedish consumption behavior

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52 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Sustainable diets, in particular vegetarianism, are often promoted as effective measures to reduce our environmental footprint. Yet, few conclusions take full-scale behavioral changes into consideration. This can be achieved by calculating the indirect environmental rebound effect related to the re-spending of expenditure saved during the initial behavioral shift. This study aims to quantify the potential energy use and greenhouse gas emission savings, and most likely rebound effects, related to an average Swedish consumer's shift to vegetarianism. Using household budget survey data, it estimates Engel curves of 117 consumption goods, derives marginal expenditure shares, and links these values to environmental intensity indicators. Results indicate that switching to vegetarianism could save consumers 16% of the energy use and 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions related to their dietary consumption. However, if they re-spend the saved income according to their current preferences, they would forego 96% of potential energy savings and 49% of greenhouse gas emission savings. These rebound effects are even higher for lower-income consumers who tend to re-spend on more environmentally intensive goods. Yet, the adverse effect could be tempered by purchasing organic goods or re-spending the money on services. In order to reduce the environmental impact of consumption, it could thus be recommended to not only focus on dietary shifts, but rather on the full range of consumer expenditure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-279
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Economics
Volume116
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Engel curve
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Re-spending
  • Rebound effect
  • Sustainable consumption
  • Vegetarianism

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