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 12: Taking social practice theories on the road: a mixed-methods case study of sustainable transportation

Emily Kennedy, Harvey Krahn and Naomi T. Krogman

Subjects: environment, ecological economics


A carbon tax, a levy on plastic bags and public education about littering are all strategies for encouraging sustainable consumption practices – and tend to focus on a few individual behaviors. However, given the urgency of climate change and related pollution, changing a society’s consumption patterns on a behavior-by-behavior basis is too slow. Further, shifting individual consumption in one area (for example, of light bulbs to more energy-efficient types) has been found not to lead to a reduction in material use in other domains; instead, savings in one area lead to higher consumption in the same or other domains (Sorrell, 2009). In addition, some existing policy (and theoretical) approaches erroneously assume autonomous and rational individuals are unaffected by and have minimal impact on others (Burgess et al., 2003). Clearly, approaches that look beyond the individual are required to understand the structure-agency nexus and conditions under which more rapid social change around consumption can occur (see the chapters by Bente Halkier and Gert Spaargaren in this volume).

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