A recent HBS working paper concluded that shoppers who bring reusable bags to the store like to reward themselves for doing so.
Based on an analysis of two years of purchases at a U.S. supermarket chain, shoppers who brought their own bags bought more organic and natural foods than those who chose “paper or plastic.”
But the eco-shoppers were also more likely to buy sweets, ice cream and potato chips. There is a name for this: “Moral licensing.” That’s the tendency to indulge yourself for doing something virtuous.
There is a lot more to this, of course, but it suggests that restaurants who serve fish from sustainable sources, for example, might sell more dessert. And car manufacturers who sell new cars made with “recycled” plastic might sell more profitable add-ons.
(Source: “BYOB: How Bringing Your Own Shopping Bags Leads to Treating Yourself and the Environment,” Harvard Business School working paper, December 2014. Via The Economist, Feb. 28, 2015, pg. 67.)