Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Groningen's online course, Solving the Energy Puzzle: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Energy Transition. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds A sustainable society involves balancing environmental, economic, and social outcomes. Therefore, an energy system can only be considered sustainable when the system is also economically viable and it does not seriously threaten individual quality of life or even increases human well-being. It is often believed that engagement in sustainable behaviour will reduce individual quality of life, as such behaviour can be less comfortable, such as showering less or setting down the thermostat. People may even need to give up on certain things that they value, such as flying to faraway destinations. This assumption can be challenged for two reasons. First, some sustainable energy behaviours are pleasurable or profitable, as well, meaning that they enhance environmental quality as well as individual quality of life.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 seconds For example, insulating your house is likely to improve comfort and save money and some people enjoy cycling. People who install solar panels may enjoy trying to become self-reliant in their energy use. Second, the assumption does not take into account that there may be different sources of well-being. Notably, they focus on hedonic causes of well-being, that is, the amount of pleasure that people derive from engaging in different actions. Yet well-being may also increase when people engage in meaningful actions, which reflects eudaimonic well-being. People may feel good by doing the right thing and by contributing to a greater cause, a phenomenon that is known as “a warm glow.” Research shows that people may even literally feel a warm glow by acting pro-environmentally.

Skip to 2 minutes and 14 seconds More specifically, people who learn that their behaviour pattern has a relative low environmental impact experience the ambient temperature as higher than people who learn that their environmental impact was relatively high. This warm glow feeling results from a boost of one’s self-concept. Acting pro-environmentally says something good about a person, which elicits positive feelings and a warm grow. This implies that sustainable energy behaviours do not necessarily threaten individual well-being and that such behaviour may even enhance well-being. To design a truly sustainable energy transition, it is key to understand whether and how the proposed changes affect well-being and to study the conditions under which the proposed changes secure or even enhance individual well-being.

How do sustainable behavioural choices affect well-being?

In this video, the effects of sustainability on well-being will be discussed.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Solving the Energy Puzzle: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Energy Transition

University of Groningen