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Getting a drink: An experiment for enabling a sustainable practice in Thai university settings

Thongplew, Natapol, Kotlakome, Ratchawut
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.218 pp. 294-303
beverages, collective action, college students, drinking water, environmental sustainability, greenhouse gases, lifestyle, prices, purchasing, social class, wastes, Thailand
Thailand, an emerging economy in Southeast Asia, has gone through significant economic and social transformations in the last few decades. In this regard, consumption levels have increased and consumer lifestyles have been transformed, causing serious environmental concerns. In response to the concerns, social movements and consumer engagements in promoting environmental sustainability have emerged. However, the amount of research looking into the roles of Thai consumers in addressing environmental problems and enhancing sustainable consumption is still limited. An experiment was set up in Ubon Ratchathani University (UBU) to explore (changing) roles of consumers in getting and buying drinks. Framing university students and staff as citizen-consumers, four interventions were introduced in the experiment. Provision of drinking water and price discount were introduced to alter the provisions of drinks in the university, while insulated water bottle and informational tools were introduced to equip students and staff with technologies, competencies, and values for a sustainable practice of getting and buying drinks. Qualitative and quantitative findings of the experiment were measured after two months. Amounts of plastic waste prevention and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction were reported. Responses of consumers on the interventions were reported as positive. More importantly, it reveals that organizing consumers as a social group is a crucial driver for the shifting of their routine practices in a specific setting. To better organize the provision of drinking water and beverages in the university according to the consumers, convenience and cleanliness are crucial points. This research contributes to the knowledge of sustainable consumption in Thailand and sheds some light on the role and engagement of consumers in sustainable consumption practices.