Making better choices by experiencing the world

We consume too much. We throw away too much, buy too much, recycle too little and that has negative consequences for our planet. Even though we know that our consumption is also part of the problem, it is difficult to change it. Why is that? Barbara Müller, communication scientist, took that question in her own hands. 'Actually, it's very simple: we forget that our behaviour makes a difference.' 

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'Overconsumption is one of the reasons why the world is doing so badly,' says Müller. 'Actually, we should all live like minimalists, or at least more minimalistic. Use less and reuse more. This applies to companies, but also to ourselves. That significantly reduces our ecological footprint. Although we can control our buying behaviour, it is still difficult to change. People could use some help with that!'  

Amaze yourself 

Müller looked for a way: 'I found a theory that assumes that the feeling of awe makes you feel more connected to others. You turn out to feel this wonder especially when you are surprised.' That is why Müller chose to show some students the Northern Lights. 'An experience they probably never experienced before. And trough virtual reality ofcourse, it was obviously not sustainable to fly everyone to Iceland!'

That experience through virtual reality proved very successful. The students were given the choice of bringing a gift after the experiment. 'They could choose from different gifts, for example shampoo. The shampoo was either clearly a sustainable choice, for example a shampoo bar without plastic, or a regular shampoo bottle,' explains the communication scientist. The most striking thing about the experiment was that more than half of the students chose not to bring either. 'A really nice result: the Northern Lights experience led students to consume less.'

Need for more 

Müller wants to hone her findings further: 'We have now done a small experiment. I would like to discover whether this mechanism also works in younger children, but also in older people.' With the results of her research, Barbara Müller eventually wants to create educational programmes and bring them to the attention of secondary schools. 'I want to make young people between the ages of 12 and 18 even more aware of consumption behaviour and let their wonder contribute to a healthy world.

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