Understanding views on sufficient clothing consumption: Using Q methodology

University essay from Lunds universitet/Internationella miljöinstitutet

Abstract: Overconsumption of clothes is a global environmental and social problem, where 80 billion new clothing is produced each year. Efficiency measures have focused on improving resource efficiency on the production side and improving clothing care on the consumer side. However, literature shows that these measures are not enough. Sufficiency shifts the focus to affluent societies consuming less, and understanding sufficiency from the consumer perspective is therefore of utmost importance. This thesis aims to explore consumers’ perceptions about sufficiency by answering two research questions. 1) How do consumers understand and perceive sufficiency in their clothing consumption? 2) How can sufficient clothing consumption be encouraged according to consumers? This thesis employs Q methodology to capture different perspectives on sufficient clothing consumption among female millennial Icelandic consumers. Three different social perspectives emerged in this research: A) Quality seekers for sufficiency, B) Vicious cycle consumers, and C) Sufficiency as a state of mind. The findings also demonstrated a significant consensus among the perspectives. The results were analysed with Social Practice Theory, focusing on the meaning and competence elements of the theory. The findings further explored consumers’ perceptions regarding responsibility and interventions for each social perspective. Consumers in the two social perspectives responded positively to numerous governmental interventions, while consumers adhering to the last social perspective were not in favour of restrictive governmental interventions into clothing consumption. Evidence of the knowledge-behaviour gap was present within that last perspective. These results give an indication of the perceptions of consumers towards sufficient clothing consumption and sufficiency encouragement, which could be of value both for practitioners and policymakers.

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