We live in a fast-moving world. ‘Quick’ and ‘Easy’ can easily describe the current trends regarding product production. ‘Efficient’ and ‘Green’ were recently added to the ensemble, thus creating a increasingly attractive combination. But the questions which need to be asked are:
- How efficient and green these products or services actually are?
- Does switching to electric mean lower consumer consumption?
- Does quick and easy really mean better and resource-saving?
In this article, we will partially answer these questions by going through The Rebound Effect and its crucial role in sustainability, the transition to sustainability, and overall important information on the subject.
What is the Rebound Effect?
According to scientific theory, the Rebound Effect refers to a phenomenon where planned savings due to implementation improvement may be less than expected due to behavioral and systemic responses. (sciencedirect.com)
In a facilitated expression, the Rebound Effect refers to a situation where a specific advancement is perceived from a unilateral perspective and ends up being utilized in such great measure that it overcomes the savings in the specific economic, mechanical, or energetical field.
Rebound effect: Influencing Factors
The Rebound Effect’s greatest influencing factors are the Changes in Production and Consumption, Money, Information, and Accessibility. These factors influence the Rebound Effect just as much as they influence each other. They all start from the behavioral response of the consumer.
How does the Rebound Effect occur?
The following example can easily describe how does the Rebound Effect occur:
The consumer is generally subjected to large amounts of information on a daily basis. The already existing macroeconomic situation and the will to decrease living costs, leads them towards what appears to be the most efficient solution. Due to the current high level of accessibility, it is increasingly easy to acquire the specific product. However, since the idea of ‘This product is much more energy efficient’, they tend to use it for longer, ending up consuming much more energy than before. The extra consumption which occurs in this type of situation is called The Rebound Effect.
Several Triggers and Drivers make up these Factors which, in turn, are liable for the occurrence of the Rebound Effect.
The greatest triggers of the Rebound Effect are the Exogenous Efficiency, the Endogenous Efficiency, and the Productivity Factor.
Endogenous Efficiency refers to the individual’s intrinsic need for efficiency and lower consumption. Exogenous Efficiency refers to an outer entity imposing efficiency in the individual’s environment.
As previously mentioned, Drivers, along with the Triggers make up the Factors. Moreover, the Drivers represent the immediate action caused by the Triggers. Therefore, the Drivers resulted from the most encountered Triggers are: Economic factors, Consumer/Producer behavior, and Time/Space savings.
Exogenous and Endogenous Triggers make up the Economic Factors. They refer to the individual’s perspective on themselves or the surrounding economic situation.
Consumer/Producer behavior is one of the most complex yet easiest Drivers to notice. Its impacts and results are usually observed in a short timeframe. It refers to the Consumer’s/Producer’s tendency to acquire more efficient products.
Time/Space savings is a byproduct of both the Efficiency Trigger and the Behavior Driver. It refers to the individual’s tendency to search for time and space-efficient products.
Types of Rebound Effect
The Rebound Effect can occur at three different levels:
Micro level Rebound Effect refers to this phenomenon happening at the smallest scale, namely, the individual consumer, household, or company. It is usually characterized by the process of purchasing a product, for example, a high-efficiency class lightbulb, and then using the product more than the previous one. This ends up in the utilization of the better lightbulb so much more (on the premise that it is more efficient) that it ends up costing more than the previous one.
The Meso level refers to single Markets, Sectors, or Symbiotic Relationships. What this could be portrayed through is a situation where in a market would be a new service which would be introduced with the purpose of energy, time, and money saving. Then, having the service used to such an extent that it generates various increased costs for the companies in the market.
The Macro level represents the greatest scale and refers to Cities, Regions, and Nations. In this case, it is usually the Micro or the Meso level happening at a much greater scale. This generates a great scale general Rebound Effect.
Mechanisms of Rebounds
Rebounds can happen in multiple ways. For example, at the Micro level, which is the easiest to relate to, there is the practice of substituting walking, cycling or taking the train with using a car-sharing service. By doing that, the individual truly reaches his destination faster, but in terms of vehicle deterioration and CO2 emissions, the balance lies the complete opposite way.
A second example would be Consumption Accumulation. Clothes renting usually is an example which describes this. Usually, people who rent clothing tend to spend much more on secondary articles for the desired outfit, thinking that they acted sustainably.
Conclusion – How do we avoid the Rebound Effect?
The Rebound Effect is a phenomenon that is tightly connected to a multitude of additional factors. Avoiding it would require careful planification and use of products. Generally, the behavioral focus should be on using less, rather than buying something more efficient, or purchasing more efficient products but using them in the same measure as before. However, as previously stated, it is a phenomenon relatively difficult to avoid, but not impossible through careful and conscious utilization.
We need to raise awareness regarding matters as such and follow the appropriate course of action to minimize and contain the negative effects both from an individual perspective and also as a company employee. Here at 2030Builders, we specialize in unraveling the lesser-known perspectives of sustainability as well as offering sustainable solutions and guidance.
For a more in-depth approach please click our link HERE to get to our webinar and interview with the Doctorate Researcher Julija Metic on the Rebound effect.