Conclusions Seedbeds for Sustainable Consumption

Sustainable consumption in all its guises - fair trade, local food, organics, energy efficiency, low carbon - is coming in from the cold. Green is the new black. It is starting to be considered fashionable, due to a concerted marketing effort to make sustainable lifestyles more desirable. Green consumers are increasingly called upon to lead the way in demonstrating social and environmental commitment through their purchases, sending powerful market signals to producers and retailers. But despite the headlines and high-profile marketing campaigns, this growing trend barely scratches the surface of the changes we need to make to developed country consumption patterns. There are significant problems with an approach which burdens individuals with the responsibility for achieving sustainable consumption, and which relies on conscious consumer decision-making, to the neglect of routine, habitual consumption. Barry Clavin of the UK's Co-operative Bank (one of the leading proponents of ethical consumption) celebrates the growing market for ethical consumption, but reminds us that ethical consumerism 'cannot be relied upon to deliver the significant 60-80% reductions in CO2 needed' (in Co-operative Bank, 2007: 3). Indeed, it might simply be another reason to keep shopping and buying more products and continuing to fuel consumerist lifestyles:

The middle classes rebrand their lives, congratulate themselves on going green, and carry on buying and flying as before. It is easy to picture a situation in which the whole world religiously buys green products and its carbon emissions continue to soar

The imperatives of climate change, and the urgent need to make steep reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, are prompting critics to argue that current mainstream policy approaches to sustainable development are inadequate, and that a radical overhaul of developed country consumption patterns is required. This book has examined some of the proposed solutions to this crisis. It has examined grassroots innovations in three of the most fundamental systems of provision we encounter daily: the socio-technical systems which shape what we eat, where we live, and how we organise exchange between ourselves. At a more fundamental level, it has sought to provide evidence and critical appraisal of a 'New Economics' narrative about how we should live, for the long-term sustainability of our communities and planet.

The initiatives discussed in the previous chapters provide a small taste of what a New Economics sustainable consumption might mean in practice. Although apparently diverse in nature, they have much in common: they are all embedded within social economies, they utilise a range of organisational forms, marshalled to meet social and environmental needs, and they aim to establish new infrastructures of provision and social institutions based on ecological citizenship values. They all appear to overcome some of the obstacles faced by mainstream sustainable consumption strategies in enabling the practice of ecological citizenship, but still encounter barriers preventing them from achieving more widespread impacts. Drawing on innovation theory and the sustainability transitions literature, we can understand these barriers in terms of the clashes of oppositional systems encompassing practices, institutions, infrastructures and values. We can begin to conceive of the challenges ahead, if we are to overcome these barriers and harness the energy, ethics and innovative potential of the grassroots to catalyse wider societal change and achieve sustainable consumption. In this concluding chapter the main lessons from this approach are drawn out, to set out a new research and policy agenda for sustainable consumption.

Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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