Handbook of Research on Sustainable Consumption
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Handbook of Research on Sustainable Consumption

Edited by Lucia A. Reisch and John Thøgersen

This Handbook compiles the state of the art of current research on sustainable consumption from the world’s leading experts in the field. The implementation of sustainable consumption presents one of the greatest challenges and opportunities we are faced with today. On the one hand, consumption is a wanted and necessary phenomenon important for society and the economy. On the other, our means of consumption contradicts many important ecological and social long-term goals. Set against this background, the Handbook aims to offer an interdisciplinary overview of recent research on sustainable consumption, to draw attention to this subject and to encourage discussion and debate. In 27 chapters, leading authorities in the field provide their expertise in a concise and accessible manner.
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Chapter 8: Life cycle assessment as a means to identify the most effective action for sustainable consumption

Kjartan Steen-Olsen and Edgar G. Hertwich


What kind of responses would you get if you took a poll to the streets asking people what actions they should take to reduce the environmental burden of their lifestyle? It is likely that common replies would involve installing energy-efficient light bulbs and water-efficient shower heads, switching to reusable shopping bags, driving electric cars and so on. But how much, if at all, do these individual actions actually contribute? The sustainable society, though hardly controversial as a vision for the global community, is as challenging as it is ambitious, and it does not help that sustainability is intrinsically hard to measure. One challenge for consumers is the plethora of information they are exposed to from media, official agencies, commercial actors, friends and family. Even for those who are motivated to do so, changing behaviour on environmental grounds takes cognitive effort, which consumers economize (Stern et al. 2010). As such, it is in the interest of all parties that those behaviour changes that are successfully introduced to the public carry as much weight for the environment as possible.

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