Tightened credit markets, stock market crashes, and record-high unemployment levels—it’s enough to make consumers reevaluate their shopping behavior. Shopping and spending money simply is no longer the cool thing. Saving money and caring for the environment constitute the trendy and more popular ways to flaunt “coolness.”

Consumers brag not about their new Gucci sunglasses but rather about their latest bargain. Furthermore, customers concerned with the environment once had mostly expensive options for doing the right thing—buying more expensive organic food or installing really expensive solar energy panels. Today though, more customers are eliminating bottled water and growing their own vegetables, which represent ways to save money and care for the environment at the same time.

As they take more responsibility for their actions and attempt to live within their means, Starbucks-drinking, routine-shopping consumers are realizing that some of their old habits cannot fit within their budget and frankly are unnecessary. People adopt their own individual forms of environmentalism, and the affluent are no longer excluded from this trend.

The economic crisis has made consumers behave in unique ways, unlike some of their responses to other recent economic downturns. The high amounts of uncertainty are causing consumers to save money rather than spend it and, if they have to spend it, to look for merchandise that is on sale, in outlet stores, or in thrift stores.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is the economic downturn spurring environmentally responsible actions?
  1. Provide examples.

Jennifer Saranow, “Luxury Consumers Scrimp for Sake of Planet and Because It’s Cheaper,” Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2008.