Innovations in Sustainable Consumption

Innovations in Sustainable Consumption

New Economics, Socio-technical Transitions and Social Practices

Advances in Ecological Economics series

Edited by Maurie J. Cohen, Halina Szejnwald Brown and Philip J. Vergragt

This timely volume recognizes that traditional policy approaches to reduce human impacts on the environment through technological change – for example, emphasizing resource efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources – are insufficient to meet the most pressing sustainability challenges of the twenty-first century. Instead, the editors and contributors argue that we must fundamentally reconfigure our lifestyles and social institutions if we are to make the transition toward a truly sustainable future.

Chapter 9: Clusters in transition: analysis of a sustainable energy-cluster initiative in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

Jennie C. Stephens and Stephen M. McCauley

Subjects: environment, ecological economics


The need to transition to less fossil fuel-reliant energy systems is increasingly recognized throughout the world (Vaitheeswaran, 2003; Holdren, 2006; IPCC, 2011). As powerful social and political forces restrict the shift away from entrenched fossil fuel-based systems at the national and global scales, some cities and municipalities are leading transition efforts. At the scale of individual cities or towns, energy transitions include a myriad of strategies and practices including both promoting renewable methods of energy production and reducing energy consumption through social and technological changes related to energy conservation and efficiency. At the municipal level, implementing change in energy systems requires engagement, mobilization and coordination among a diverse set of organizations, individuals and urban energy consumers, including homeowners, renters, business owners, local governments and other local institutions (see the chapter by Sabine Hielscher, Gill Seyfang and Adrian Smith in this volume). Catalyzing an urban energy transition therefore involves enabling and empowering these stakeholders to make choices that support renewable energy and reduce energy consumption. Emerging work on energy use and consumption demonstrates that these individual and organizational choices are most likely to occur in the context of broader changes in values, lifestyles and cultural norms (Seyfang et al., 2010).

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