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Green altruism is perhaps best summed up by the popular bumper sticker: “Live simply so that others may simply live.” Many, but not all, environmentally friendly activities require some sort of sacrifice. On the personal level, recycling, using environmentally friendly products, biking to work, purchasing organic food, and supporting environmental institutions all require expending time and/or money. Many argue that this is altruistic behavior, as it distances the actor from the capitalist ideal of unrestrained materialism. However, these actions are often conspicuously carried out in order to achieve some sort of prestige that is associated with environmental altruism.

The concept of altruism has been central, although rarely stated, to the U.S. environmental movement from its inception, from Henry David Thoreau's “roughing it” in his log cabin ...

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