• Credit cards;
  • consumer payment systems;
  • household finance;
  • LOHAS;
  • lifestyles of health and sustainability;
  • revolving debt


Over the past decade, sustainable consumption has emerged as an issue of growing international prominence. Policy initiatives to facilitate more environmentally and socially preferable household provisioning have typically emphasized materials and energy efficiency. While this approach holds the prospect for some notable short-term gains, experience suggests that longer-term improvements are likely to fall short of expectations and trigger unanticipated rebound effects. Effective policy programs need to acknowledge the social and financial dimensions of consumer decision making and become more attentive to the role of households as catalysts of production. From this perspective, consumer payment systems take on special significance. In particular, the prevalence of credit cards and the accumulation of consumer debt in the USA and other advanced countries have been important drivers of economic growth in recent years. This paper highlights the linkages between consumer credit and sustainable consumption and discusses the structural changes in lending practices that account for the popularity of this payment system. While unsatisfactory conceptual models and inadequate data make it difficult to advance any definitive assessment of this relationship, it is possible to outline the basic elements of a research agenda in this area.