How and why can we shift consumer behaviour?

Updated: Jun 5

The first time I visited the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia I was in my twenties so I have watched it change. A couple of days ago I gave directions to the front entrance of the Basilica and it felt unnatural saying "walk past McDonald's and Big Guys, it's on your right". It is a real shame that one of the most unique pieces of architectural history and one of the worlds UNESCO heritage sites is opposite the largest American fast-food chain Subway, McDonald's, Big Guys and Starbucks.

How and why should we change consumer behaviour?

It is lunchtime and I am sat opposite one of the worlds most visited tourist attractions, the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, a large unfinished Basilica designed by architect Antony Gaudi, due for completion in 2026. On the subject of the building not being finished, Gaudi is said to have said: "my client is not in a hurry". This is good to hear and makes a change as most of what consumers desire is speed and value.

Do tourists who are making life memories by travelling 9468 miles from Australia to Barcelona to see the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia really want a humdrum fast-food bite on a bun? Or tacky illegal counterfeit goods that are made illegally in undeveloped countries. Well apparently so!

These fast-food chains are packed full of tourists chewing the fat, literally about why they aren't curious enough to walk five or ten minutes around the corner to an authentic independent restaurant or shop. Statistically, consumer behaviour indicates that fast-food chains may always have a place on urban high streets, albeit these fast-food chains and illegal counterfeit shops will always be out of place opposite a world heritage building or site.

So how can town planners and innovative urban developers shift urban consumer behaviour and why should they?

Consumerism increases waste pollution, creates hazardous landfill, air pollution and throw-away culture. Town planners who work closely with private and public sectors require tougher sustainable regulations, particularly around heritage sites and retailers.

UNESCO heritage buildings worldwide require much more thought during the interior design and planning process. Residential and commercial sectors may not be interested in understanding why they should consider encouraging shoppers to be more socially conscious consumers albeit, in our current climate crisis the way we shop impacts the people in the supply chain. What can we do to help;

  • People working in carbon-intensive industries require further training from employers to understand the environmental and social impact of their decisions.

  • When consuming or producing goods an out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach to business and consumption needs to stop.

  • The private and public sector need to replace carbon-intensive processes with renewable energy resources and adopt environmental protection and sustainable development throughout the manufacturing and production process.

  • Counterfeit goods - avoid buying counterfeit goods in your own country or when visiting other countries. It is illegal and has a negative impact on the wear-it-once-throw-it-away cheap fast-fashion culture and waste pollution.

  • Town planners should consider how their business decisions negatively impact consumer behaviours.

  • Town planners, the private and public sectors and we as consumers could easily adopt the rule of 4R - rethink, reuse, reduce and recycle.

  • Whoever you are, wherever you are, take a minute to read the label

  • Eating too much livestock creates insane amounts of methane and nitrous oxide. These animal greenhouse gases affect global warming 28 times higher than carbon dioxide - Buy less meat or buy locally sources food. There is something rewarding about stopping off at two or three shops to feed the family and helping to keep local independent shops in business.

  • If something is really cheap question why? Primark for example, I have been called a snob for not shopping there. I love fast-fashion and I am far from being a snob! I just can't shop in a shop where some years back the BBC Panoroma under covered children in India aged 11-years-old working in poor conditions as part of the Primark supply chain. The fact of the matter is Primark 'claimed' they did not know about the child-labour so they thankfully sacked all three suppliers. My point is an out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach to manufacturing must stop. The fact Primark 'say' they didn't know is irresponsible. Primark sells jeans for £8.00, these jeans cost 50p each to make, the people making the jeans get whipped by the floor manager if they fail to sew 300 pairs at pace. I am not a snob, I just feel strongly about social injustice and I dislike the quality.

  • Investors and city town planners could aim to support local independent environmental innovations.

  • Refill stations - not enough companies offer refill stations. If people start asking about domestic cleaning and cosmetic refill stations, a change will come. Refill at home and if you own a brand use your best seller as a starting point and offer a refill and drop-off option at your shop.

  • Reuse packets and containers at home.

It is never too late for carbon-intensive industries to advance their business model by looking into the future to furthermore explore a greener, cleaner product.


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Outside A Circus

Outside a Circus is an eccentric hat shop inspired by plants and nature, Shopping tours in Barcelona and a green fashion, shopping and interiors blog.

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