Applications and Advances in Research on Sustainable Consumption
Edited by Emily H. Kennedy, Maurie J. Cohen and Naomi Krogman
Chapter 8: Researching transitions to sustainable consumption: a practice theory approach to studying innovations in consumption
Novel or alternative social practices have great potential to shift current unsustainable forms of consumption. They can be introduced through collective means, such as citizen-energy cooperatives, swapping and sharing networks, and do-it-yourself (DIY) workshops. These collective institutions are typically organized on a collaborative basis and oriented toward finding less environmentally and socially damaging ways to produce and consume resources. Further, such initiatives can communicate values of solidarity, communality, and sufficiency. Since they are expected to provide impetus for social change and problem-solving, such efforts are often referred to as ‘social innovations’ (European Commission 2010, p. 8). In terms of promoting climate protection and sustainable behavior, many expect that social innovations have the potential to mobilize consumers more effectively than ‘top-down’ policy interventions (Bergman et al. 2010; Transition Towns Network 2008). This outcome is expected because social innovations are ‘grounded in the social relations and experiences of those in need’ (Moulaert et al. 2013, p. 1) and typically are diffused through personally relevant social networks. In this way, social innovations are able to obtain high levels of acceptance (McMichael and Shipworth 2013) and – as will be argued further below – have the potential to transcend individualistic approaches to sustainability (see also Chapters 1 and 3). Given their capacity to stimulate sustainable development, social innovations have attracted attention among policy-makers (Barroso 2011; Bureau of European Policy Advisers 2010).
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