Is there a trade-off between individuals’ subjective well-being and their ecological footprint?
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Is there a trade-off between individuals’ subjective well-being and their ecological footprint? Elsy Verhofstadt, Luc Van Ootegem, Bart Defloor & Brent Bleys. World Happiness Report, 2013 (p.108)

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Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

Is there a trade-off between individuals’ subjective well-being and their ecological footprint?

Elsy Verhofstadt, Luc Van Ootegem, Bart Defloor & Brent Bleys

Well-being and Public Policy Conference – June 10-12, 2014 – New York


Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

  • World Happiness Report, 2013 (p.108)

  • “The analytical community needs to help us understand which policies would raise well-being in a sustainable way”.

  • Lenzen & Cummins, 2013 (p.57)

  • “To our knowledge, there exist at present no survey data, and hence also no assessment, in which SWB and carbon footprint of household consumption can be investigated for one and the same population”

Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 20142


Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

Research goals

  • Combine information on individual well-being with information on the ecological footprint of that individual

  • Investigate the relation between Subjective Well-Being (SWB) and the Ecological Footprint (EF):

    • direct relation between SWB and EF

    • impact of variables on SWB and EF

Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 20143


Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

Existing literature

  • Environment in SWB literature

    • state of the environment (e.g. temperature, air pollution)

    • attitudes towards the environment (e.g. concern for pollution)

  • In studies explaining the environmental impact or footprint of individuals the focus is on household characteristics but there is no link to subjective well-being

  • Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 20144


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Structure

    Introduction

    Concepts & measurement

    Correlation between well-being and footprint

    Analysis of determinants

    Summary and policy implications

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 20145


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Ecological footprint: the concept

    The Ecological Footprint tracks humanity’s demands on the biosphere.

    It does so by calculating the area required to produce the resources people consume, the area occupied by infrastructure, and the area of forest required for sequestering CO2 not absorbed by the ocean.

    WWF, 20126


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    WWF, 20127


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Ecological footprint: measurement

    • We included the questions necessary to calculate the Ecological Footprint for each respondent:

    • ‣ family composition, food intake, energy use (heating and

    • electricity), paper use, car and public transportation

    • use, travel behaviour

    • Calculations by Ecolife, partner of WWF in Belgium

    • Average: 6,94 (st.dev. 1,85) / minimum: 2,87 – maximum: 17,00

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 20148


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Subjective well-being: measurement

    • Life Satisfaction

    • “All things considered how satisfied are you with your life in general? “

    • scale from 0 ‘very unsatisfied’ to 10 ‘very satisfied’

    • Primary measure for SWB as suggested by OECD in their guidelinesonMeasuringSubjectiveWell-being (2013)

    • Average: 7,24 (st.dev. 1,50) / Median: 7

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 20149


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Data: LEVO 2013

    • Self-reported information from a survey (N=1291) in Flanders

    • Data are weighted to obtain a representative sample according to personal situation, gender and age distribution

    • Socio-economic characteristics

    • Self-evaluations for health, social life and living environment

    • Personality traits and expectations

    • Attitude towards the environment

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201410


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Structure

    Introduction

    Concepts & measurement

    Correlation between well-being and footprint

    Analysis of determinants

    Summary and policy implications

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201411


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Pearson correlations

    • No significant correlation between ecological footprint and life satisfaction (p=0.719)

    • Correlations of satisfaction with the different components:

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201412


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    • Structure

    • Introduction

    • Concepts & measurement

    • Correlation between well-being and footprint

    • Analysis of determinants

      • 4.1 Effect of EF aspects on SWB

      • 4.2 Effect of SWB determinants on EF

    • Summary and policy implications

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201413


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    4.1 Effect of EF aspects on SWB (1)

    • Including all questions of the EF calculation in one stepwise OLS regression of SWB

    • For dummies, the reference is always a category for which the impact on the EF is on average

    • Components that are not significant for SWB:

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201414


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    4.1 Effect of EF aspects on SWB (2)

    • Unstandardized coefficients for significant dummies (p<0,05)

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201415


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    4.1 Effect of EF aspects on SWB (3)

    • Unstandardized coefficients for significant dummies (p<0,05)

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201416


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    4.1 Effect of EF aspects on SWB (4)

    • Unstandardized coefficients for significant dummies (p<0,05)

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201417


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    4.2 Effect of SWB determinants on EF (1)

    • Including all available well-being determinants in a stepwise OLS regression of SWB (adj. R2= 0,276) and EF (adj. R2= 0,100)

    • Standardized coefficients for significant variables (p<0,05)


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    4.2 Effect of SWB determinants on EF (2)

    • Standardized coefficients for significant variables (p<0,05)


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    4.2 Effect of SWB determinants on EF (3)

    • Standardized coefficients for significant variables (p<0,05)

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201420


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    4.2 Effect of SWB determinants on EF (4)

    • Standardized coefficients for significant variables (p<0,05)


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    4.2 Effect of SWB determinants on EF (5)

    • Standardized coefficients for significant variables (p<0,05)

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201422


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Structure

    Introduction

    Concepts & measurement

    Correlation between well-being and footprint

    Analysis of determinants

    Summary and policy implications

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201423


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Win-Win variables

    • i.e. reducing the ecological footprint and at the same time positive impact on subjective well-being

    • Increase consumption of local and seasonal products and decrease consumption of frozen vegetables and fruit preserves

    • Avoiding electricity for the heating of houses

    • Making homeownership appealing

    • Providing pleasant living environments in city centers

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201424


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Win-neutral variables

    • i.e. reducing the ecological footprint with no impact on subjective well-being

    • Using recycled paper and no advertising

    • Stimulate green electricity and advice on saving electricity

    • Insulate houses

    • Increase concern about environmental issues

    • Co –housing

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201425


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Trade off variables

    • Some variables create a trade off: they are beneficial for one outcome but have an adverse effect on the other outcome.

    • Examples:

    • having no or not using a car

    • stay at home or nearby during holidays

    • living in a small house or apartment

    •  Reduce EF, but are at the same time harmful for SWB

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201426


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Long-term effects

    • Policy objectives should also consider the long-term effects:

    • Extreme climate events caused by an increased ecological footprint will very likely have a negative impact on well-being through reduced health and feelings of safety and security.

    • Investments in education are necessary for R&D (eg for alternative energy) - although higher educated have a higher EF

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 201427


    Is there a trade off between individuals subjective well being and their ecological footprint

    Thank you!

    [email protected]

    [email protected]


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