One of the reasons for promoting sustainable consumption is that it may give rise to greater happiness for a greater number, at least in the long run. In this paper I explore the strength of that moral account. I take stock of the assumed effects of sustainable consumption on happiness and then review the empirical evidence for such effects on the present generation. I make also educated guesses about the consequences for the happiness of generations to come. The evidence suggests that a shift to sustainable consumption involve a minor reduction in happiness, at least temporarily, but that we can live quite happily with less luxury. Sustainable consumption by the present generation will only add to the happiness of future generations if it prevents major ecological disasters or if exhaustion of resources will reduce future generations to poverty. Moral justification of sustainable consumption can better appeal to the inherent value of the things it aims to sustain than to human happiness.

social change, social cohesion, sociology
Sociology of Economics (jel A14)
Department of Sociology

Veenhoven, R. (2009). Sustainable consumption and happiness. Retrieved from