Did Celebrating Earth Day Make You Pollute More?

Beware moral self-regulation. Doing good works, it turns out, may make people feel justified in doing ill. A new study from psychologists at Northwestern University suggests that “affirming a moral identity leads people to feel licensed to act immorally.” In other words, as Ryan Sager points out, acting green one day might leave you more willing to indulge your planet-destroying consumption impulses the next. [%comments]


Or like going to church on Sunday might make you support torture on Monday.


I got an email on Earth day to "Celebrate Earth Day with Savings." I thought the idea was to not consume.


I didn't do anything for Earth Day, so I sorta doubt it.


Makes complete sense. When people eat well one day, they will often have an extra portion the next.


My company celebrated earth day by giving us swag (i.e. landfill fodder). Oh, the irony.


There is a form of excess earnestness with all the Earth/Green stuff. We have a townhouse in Whistler and Whistler is gonzo on touting how "Green" it is - never mentioning the billions of gallons of jet and auto fuel used to get people to "Green" Whistler.


Sort of like consumption smoothing.


I went to the store to get some chemicals to Green my lawn. I got stuck in earthday traffic. I stopped and partook in the festivities. Lots of garbage everywhere and people peddling loads of overpriced junk.

Nothing produces irony like global warming.


In regards to earth hour, I discussed with a friend the existence of an incentive for people to be greener given they could be rewarded with the freedom to partake in some non-green activity for a set period of time. This is a sort of anti-earth hour, but as a reward for being green for every other hour. This discussion sort of ties in with this article whereby harnessing the moral licensing in people, harming the environment could actually be regulated as "rewards" and gradually phased out as opposed to having these acts proliferate unmeasured the more green people become. Hence the "licence" to act immorally could actually become a literal thing.


There's some interesting research by Ayelet Fishbach that paints a more complicated picture. According to her research, if I view my celebration of Earth day as "progress" towards a goal to be environmentally friendly, then yes, I will be less likely to recycle tomorrow. If, however, I view my initial efforts as commitment to this goal, then I'm more likely to recycle tomorrow.

Eric M. Jones

So a man and a woman meet at the Earth Day celebration. They have a romance, get married and have a few children each of whom puts 1,000,000 kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Call me cynical.


I love "green" events which sell bottled water in plastic bottlles and do not recycle the bottles...

Bring back the paper water cup and paper straw...


I wonder if the tendency of church goers to donate is influenced by their how good they feel about their own morality. Maybe churches that teach their followers that they are bad tend to be the only ones that survive financially because of this tendency.

Jim Manley

Wouldn't that only be true for a morality of self-sacrifice? If moral acts are also acts that are good for you and that you enjoy, moral behavior should not lead to immoral behavior. Morality that is objectively good for your life is not enjoyable or life-affirming only one day per year. It is good every day of the year.


I took out my 40 foot boat and hauled it there with my Hummer. It was nice being outside enjoying earth day and everything it had to offer.