Isenhour discusses sustainability research, no-shopping concept in Press Herald article

Cynthia Isenhour, a professor of anthropology and climate change at the University of Maine, spoke with the Portland Press Herald for an article about a Maine man who spent a year without shopping for anything other than basic necessities. Nearly a decade ago, Isenhour wrote her dissertation on Swedish consumers who tried to stop shopping. She was living in Sweden and vowed to buy nothing new except for toiletries and food and succeeded with just a few exceptions, according to the article. “Research suggests that if we are truly concerned about the environment and climate, reducing total consumption through the purchase of secondhand goods, or simply buying less can make a big impact,” said Isenhour, who also is a faculty associate in the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions. But as she found with her study, global capitalism can make it hard for even informed, concerned people to swear off shopping, the Press Herald reported. “Folks who try this sort of thing rarely stick with it in the long term,” Isenhour said, “in part because it is socially non-normative.” As Isenhour wrote in a piece for Maine Policy Review, the reuse economy is an age-old concept in this state, and one whose power may be underestimated. “Maine is well-positioned to think more seriously about secondhand consumption as a means for environmental protection, waste reduction, community development and climate mitigation,” Isenhour said. “One of the key insights of anthropology is that programs are much more likely to work when they are consistent with already existing cultural norms and values.”