Putting Sustainability into Practice

Putting Sustainability into Practice

Applications and Advances in Research on Sustainable Consumption

Edited by Emily H. Kennedy, Maurie J. Cohen and Naomi Krogman

Putting Sustainability into Practice offers a robust and interdisciplinary understanding of contemporary consumption routines that challenges conventional approaches to social change premised on behavioral economics and social psychology. Empirical research is featured from eight different countries, using both qualitative and quantitative data to support its thesis.

Chapter 5: Beyond behavior change: social practice theory and the search for sustainable mobility

Stewart Barr

Subjects: environment, ecological economics, environmental sociology, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


The onset of anthropogenic climate change and international efforts to reduce carbon emissions has accelerated efforts to promote sustainable forms of transport and mobility. Traditionally, nation states, local authorities, and their agencies have regarded behavioral change as a key tool for reducing carbon emissions from transport. In so doing, they have focused attention on information-led campaigns, which have sought to encourage individuals to modify their travel behaviors. Yet social practice theorists have argued that individualistic approaches to behavioral change, which are often rooted in positivistic framings of linear decision making, are unlikely to be successful because they overlook the critical importance of socio-economic contexts. This chapter explores the ways in which social practice theories can set a new trajectory for exploring sustainable mobility, through opening up the debate to consider how built environments and economic systems lead to ever increasing demands for mobility and how, if we are ambitious, we can use the sustainable mobility question to start a new debate about why we need to travel in the ways we do, and how the places we live can be developed as spaces for dwelling, rather than spaces of mobility.

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