Does Connectivity with Nature Alter Consumer Behaviour? Linking Ocean Connectedness and Consumer Views on Single-Use Packaging
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Single-use packaging items constitute a large proportion of the plastic litter found in the marine environment. Consumer behaviour is a key contributor to the accumulation of this pollution in the environment. This thesis outlines correlational and experimental research on consumer responses to environmentally relevant qualities of single-use packaging. Furthermore, it considers a novel concept of ocean connectedness as a psychological moderator of consumer response.
Studies 1 and 2 investigated consumer responses to recyclability of packaging as well as its raw material (plastic, glass, carton and aluminium) in undergraduate students and in a broader UK public sample. Ocean connectedness was assessed with a survey, and its associations with responses to packaging recyclability and material were explored.
Study 3 was implemented as a large-scale online survey and investigated consumer responses to the origin, design and end-of-life scenarios of packaging using the Kano model of consumer satisfaction. Consumer segments were further created based on respondent characteristics, including levels of ocean connectedness and sociodemographic variables, and differences in packaging responses across consumer profiles were explored. The collected survey data further enabled exploration of the conceptual differences and similarities between ocean connectedness and nature connectedness.
Studies 4 and 5 examined the potential of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies in inducing ocean connectedness. In two experimental studies, the impacts of VR manipulation on explicit and implicit ocean connectedness, as well as on subsequent responses to packaging recyclability and material, were tested.
Overall, these studies provide evidence of consumers valuing packaging designed using circular strategies. Furthermore, a correlational association between ocean connectedness and responses to packaging recyclability and material was found: Consumers with higher levels of ocean connectedness demonstrated more positive evaluations of sustainable packaging features and were more critical towards packaging made of plastic. However, no causal link between ocean connectedness and packaging responses could be established. Yet, this work advocates for the importance of psychological ocean connectivity, a concept shown to have a somewhat unique profile in comparison to general nature connectedness, in shaping consumer responses to packaging sustainability.