The Ecological Economics of Consumption

The Ecological Economics of Consumption

Current Issues in Ecological Economics series

Edited by Lucia A. Reisch and Inge Røpke

Research on consumption from an environmental perspective has exploded since the late 1990s. This important new volume cuts across disciplines to present the latest research in the field.

Chapter 10: Lifestyle approaches as a sustainable consumption policy - a German example

Claudia Empacher and Konrad Götz

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

Extract

10. Lifestyle approaches as a sustainable consumption policy – a German example Claudia Empacher and Konrad Götz 10.1 INTRODUCTION Industrialised countries have experienced a considerable social change during the past three decades, a process that has often been referred to in terms such as erosion of traditional values, individualisation and pluralisation of social groups (see Beck 1986; Fitzgerald 2003; Giddens 1996). As to consumption, these developments have resulted in the pluralisation and individualisation of consumption patterns as well. But has this social change been adequately dealt with in the ongoing discussion on sustainable consumption? In the decade following Agenda 21, numerous activities have taken place to enable and promote sustainable consumption policies, such as research projects, the initiation of an integrated product policy, and eco-labelling schemes, and so on. However, a clear shift towards more sustainable consumption patterns can still not be observed. Somehow, sustainable consumption policies simply do not seem to reach consumers or affect them enough to bring about a change in behaviour. This is partially due to the fact that there are still no sustainable consumption policies that systematically and effectively aim at consumers; instead, policies aim predominantly at changing the basic conditions for consumption (for example, by achieving more transparency through more or better information on sustainable products, eco-labels), or at producers to reduce the environmental impact of their products (for example, by sustainable product design). By doing so, strategies neither take the living conditions of consumers into account nor their attitudes, orientations and wishes that...

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