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?

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

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


  • World Happiness Report, 2013 (p.108) well-being and their ecological footprint?

  • “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, 2014 2


Research goals well-being and their ecological footprint?

  • 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, 2014 3


Existing literature well-being and their ecological footprint?

  • 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, 2014 4


    Structure well-being and their ecological footprint?

    Introduction

    Concepts & measurement

    Correlation between well-being and footprint

    Analysis of determinants

    Summary and policy implications

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 2014 5


    Ecological footprint: the concept well-being and their ecological footprint?

    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, 2012 6


    WWF, 2012 well-being and their ecological footprint?7


    Ecological footprint: measurement well-being and their ecological footprint?

    • 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, 2014 8


    Subjective well-being: measurement well-being and their ecological footprint?

    • 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, 2014 9


    Data: LEVO 2013 well-being and their ecological footprint?

    • 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, 2014 10


    Structure well-being and their ecological footprint?

    Introduction

    Concepts & measurement

    Correlation between well-being and footprint

    Analysis of determinants

    Summary and policy implications

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 2014 11


    Pearson correlations well-being and their ecological footprint?

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

    • Correlations of satisfaction with the different components:

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 2014 12


    • Structure well-being and their ecological footprint?

    • 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, 2014 13


    4.1 Effect of EF aspects on SWB (1) well-being and their ecological footprint?

    • 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, 2014 14


    4.1 Effect of EF aspects on SWB (2) well-being and their ecological footprint?

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

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 2014 15


    4.1 Effect of EF aspects on SWB (3) well-being and their ecological footprint?

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

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 2014 16


    4.1 Effect of EF aspects on SWB (4) well-being and their ecological footprint?

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

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 2014 17


    4.2 Effect of SWB determinants on EF (1) well-being and their ecological footprint?

    • 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)


    4.2 Effect of SWB determinants on EF (2) well-being and their ecological footprint?

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


    4.2 Effect of SWB determinants on EF (3) well-being and their ecological footprint?

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

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 2014 20


    4.2 Effect of SWB determinants on EF (4) well-being and their ecological footprint?

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


    4.2 Effect of SWB determinants on EF (5) well-being and their ecological footprint?

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

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 2014 22


    Structure well-being and their ecological footprint?

    Introduction

    Concepts & measurement

    Correlation between well-being and footprint

    Analysis of determinants

    Summary and policy implications

    Elsy Verhofstadt June 12, 2014 23


    Win-Win variables well-being and their ecological footprint?

    • 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, 2014 24


    Win-neutral variables well-being and their ecological footprint?

    • 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, 2014 25


    Trade off variables well-being and their ecological footprint?

    • 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, 2014 26


    Long-term effects well-being and their ecological footprint?

    • 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, 2014 27


    Thank you! well-being and their ecological footprint?

    [email protected]

    [email protected]


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