Diffusing the benefits of sustainable housing niches

The process of building with bales includes the possibility of making a profound change in the fabric of human societies around the world. In fact, this vision is not exclusively a matter of straw bales the questions we are trying to pose are basic how do we build, and how does that process occur in relation to the community and to the life around us Straw bales happen to be a material that has inspired many to look at the process of building in a different light (Steen et al., 1994 xvi). The...

Upscaling

Upscaling niche innovations to achieve greater economies of scale and participation is a major challenge. In the case of the grassroots food initiative studied, Eostre were concerned that their existing capacity might not meet additional demand, and they were not particularly keen to grow the niche. Customer concerns about poor presentation, food quality and inconvenience were not adequately addressed (risking customer loss) because it was assumed that shared ethos would be sufficient to...

Grassroots Innovations for Sustainable Consumption

Everybody, it appears, is committed to sustainable consumption but not everybody is seeking it in the same way. Moves towards sus-tainability are generating a variety of social innovations as well as innovative technologies - new organisational arrangements and new tools - in different arenas and at different scales to address consumption issues. Grassroots, niche innovations of the type discussed in Chapter 3 differ from commercial business reforms such as those favoured by mainstream policy...

The Canelo Project

Leading proponents of the US straw-bale housing movement, Athena and Bill Steen founded the non-profit Canelo Project in 1990 to further their experimental and educational work (see Figure 6.3). Their seminal book 'The Straw Bale House' (Steen et al., 1994) consolidated the then-emerging contemporary interest in straw-bale building among environmentalists keen to develop low-cost, energy-efficient buildings from natural, local materials, and inspired a growing movement in the US and around the...

A broader understanding of wealth

First, redefining 'wealth' and 'prosperity' is a key element of the New Economics, which incorporates both environmental as well as social values. The previous chapter discussed the consequences of a narrow conception of value, externalising environmental costs and undermining social cohesion. Here, those sources of value are foregrounded. Building on the lessons of ecological economics (Costanza, 1991), the New Economics places the environment at the heart of its economic analysis, accepting...

Earthship Biotecture

Eartthship Water Roof

Founded by maverick green architect Michael Reynolds (see Figure 6.5), Earthship Biotecture is dedicated to researching and experimenting with autonomous buildings made from waste materials, and spreading ideas about building zero-energy houses around the world. An Earthship is an 'independent vessel to sail on the seas of tomorrow' (Reynolds, 1990 1), a building 'that will take care of you by interacting with and encountering the biology and physics of the earth' (Reynolds, 2004a see also...

Eostre Organics

Eostre's origins lie within Farmer's Link, a Norfolk-based NGO which was inspired by the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to improve the sus-tainability of farming in developed countries, and making solidarity links with UK farmers. In 1997, it set up East Anglia Food Link (EAFL) to promote conversion to organic production in the region. EAFL's vision is one of localism - building direct links between farmers and consumers to create more sustainable food supply chains and benefit local economies and...

Sustainable Food Growing Carrots and Community

Changing food purchase habits can dramatically alter the climate change impacts of our lifestyle. In its implications, it is comparable with the decision to abandon air travel (Goodall, 2007 230). It could be said that local organic food is flavour of the month. In recent years there has been a growing interest in the phenomenon of 'alternative agro-food networks', and locally-sourced organically-produced food has been proposed as a model of sustainable consumption. The claimed benefits include...

Replication

Grassroots innovations in food can develop as small-scale alternative systems of food provisioning to mainstream supermarket supply chains, such as the local organic food cooperative examined in Chapter 5. Successful replication of this type of initiative is evident, as similar projects with local foci spring up across the country, and is enabled by the existence of national networks of grassroots innovators in food, such as the Food Links organisations. The cases of sustainable housing in...

What motivates consumption

How is consumption behaviour determined and maintained, and how may it be influenced to change Fundamental to the task of achieving behaviour change is an understanding of what drives current consumption patterns. Within the context of sustainable consumption scholarship, there have been a number of broad-ranging reviews of theories of consumer behaviour, which attempt to map out the theoretical terrain of consumer motivations, most notably R0pke 1999 and Jackson 2004b , each of which provide...

Ecological citizenship and sustainable food innovations

This chapter began with a question could ecological citizenship be a new force to motivate sustainable consumption, and are such motiv ations expressed through purchasing food from local organic food networks Having reviewed and evaluated the activities and discussed the motivations of the participants of one such network - Eostre Organics - three things become apparent. The first is that Eostre - as envisaged and practised by its creators and users - is a niche, grassroots-based sustainable...

Social and psychological approaches

A wide range of studies and disciplines have questioned the mainstream model of economic activity, and have sought to better understand what motivates consumers to act as they do, and how that behaviour can be modified to promote more sustainable consumption patterns. Critiques have emerged from the sociological and psychological literature on the drivers of consumption, which aim to help explain why efforts based on the cognitive information deficit and market-based approaches to behaviour...

Diffusing the benefits of complementary currency niches

As a social economy innovation, time banking is one with clear goals about influencing mainstream society and institutions - its founders deliberately oriented it away from the green enclaves which had constrained LETS, and framed it instead as a means of delivering public services. Given the UK's policy support for social economy initiatives as providers of public services, social inclusion, training and local governance discussed in Chapter 4 , how successful has time banking been at...

Palg rave

The New Economics of Sustainable Consumption The New Economics of Sustainable Consumption Energy, Climate and the Environment Series Series Editor David Elliott, Professor of Technology, Open David Elliott editor NUCLEAR OR NOT Does Nuclear Power Have a Place in a Sustainable Future David Elliott editor SUSTAINABLE ENERGY Opportunities and Limitation Horace Herring and Steve Sorrell editors ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF SUSTAINABLE ENERGY Gill Seyfang...

A new environmental ethic ecological citizenship

Seeking to define and embed a new 'environmental ethic' in public debates and discourses, environmentalists aim for a rationale for changing behaviour towards more sustainable lifestyles motivated by an ethical position, rather than simply responding to superficial incentives. An environmentally informed morality implies particular types of political relationships - the nature of citizenship - between strangers, across generations and even across species Dobson, 2003 Dobson and Valencia, 2005 ....

Nu Spaarpas

The Nu Spaarpas NU scheme is a 'green rewards' currency which has recently been piloted in the Netherlands and has been unre-searched until now. This currency is designed to promote environmentally-friendly consumer behaviour, and operates like a reward card Bibbings, 2004 . Points are earned when residents separate their waste for recycling, use public transport, or shop locally. The points circulate in a closed-loop system, and card scanners in participating shops feed data into a central set...

Some characteristics of grassroots innovations

The niche framework provides a potentially fruitful bridge between analyses of grassroots initiatives as civil society activities and a role for them in sustainable innovation policy. Here the conceptual model of green niches is extended to the grassroots realm, from the market economy to the social economy, with sensitivity to the fundamental differences between the two sectors. It is important to qualify this potential grassroots innovations are not the exclusive, powerful vanguard for more...

The rationale for organic and local foods

Organic production refers to agriculture which does not use artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and animals reared in more natural conditions, without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive livestock farming. Consumer demand for organic produce has risen enormously over the last 15 years in the UK, growing from a niche activity to a mainstream consumption choice Smith, 2006 . Sales of organic products in the UK amounted to 1.213 billion in 2004, a rise...

Intrinsic benefits

The principal intrinsic benefit relates to the social and environmental basis of the niche. But what can small-scale community action contribute to sustainable development A review of grassroots action for sustainability by Church and Elster 2002 identified a range of direct environmental benefits such as reduced car-use, increased recycling, and planting trees. When assessing impacts, they note 'small local projects may seem almost irrelevant at city-scale or above, but if wider policies lead...