Saturday, April 11, 2015

When it comes to shopping bags a 'good green deed' justifies higher junk food consumption

Professor Sam Peltzman at Chicago specializes in quantifying the unintended consequences of virtuous behavior.  For example Dr. Peltzman discovered that seatbelt laws that increased driver utilization of the belts was associated with lower death rates for those inside cars but higher death rates among pedestrians outside them.  He hypothesized that people wearing seatbelts feel safer so they drive more aggressively, mowing down more pedestrians.

In the same spirit comes a study that finds that people who shift to reusable shopping bags also substitute organic for non organic food items and buy incrementally more junk food - chips, candy, ice cream, sodas.  It seems as if the 'good deeds' are resulting in an 'entitlement' to consume junk food.

Karkarmar: It was clear that shoppers who brought their own bags were more likely to replace nonorganic versions of goods like milk with organic versions. So one green action led to another. But those same people were also more likely to buy foods like ice cream, chips, candy bars, and cookies. They weren’t replacing other items with junk food, as they did with organic food. They were just adding it to their carts.
I would expect that a lot of 'good deeds' result in other 'indulgences' - I wonder what the impact of charitable giving has been as tax rates have risen? - "I gave at the IRS" replacing church.

The second order effects are always the fun ones.

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