Exploring Sustainable Consumption

Environmental Policy and the Social Sciences


  • Joseph Murphy, The Open University
  • Maurie J. Cohen, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Consumption and lifestyles in the World's richest countries are a significant cause of global environmental problems. Consumerism is increasingly recognised as a major drain on global resources and the search for sustainable consumption is emerging as a key policy issue.
In Exploring Sustainable Consumption Joseph Murphy and Maurie Cohen have brought together an internationally recognised group of authors who critically examine this key area of policy debate. Through papers by Jouni Paavola, David Goodman, Michael Redclift, Elizabeth Shove and other major authors, Exploring Sustainable Consumption addresses issues including food and water consumption, green consumerism, the consumption of space, the role of technology and the pursuit of sustainable lifestyles. It criticises naïve proposals that emphasise technological optimism and a limited understanding of consumption practices.
The authors locate sustainable consumption within the history of debates about the environmental impact of modern societies and examine how governments and others are approaching this issue. Each contributor examines consumption-environment relationships from his or her own disciplinary perspective. This rich and diverse literature is used to outline new approaches to policy and action. The book represents a major contribution to the sustainable consumption debate and illustrates the valuable contribution that the social sciences can make.
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For those in the field of geography, developmental studies, ecology, environmental economics and environmental science.


Book information

  • Published: September 2001
  • Imprint: PERGAMON
  • ISBN: 978-0-08-043920-4


This outstanding collection of essays breaks new ground on urgent and important subjects. It does an admirable job of assessing the current state of consumption policy, and points the way forward in finding ways to reduce the environmental consequences of consumer culture. The breadth of the papers is particularly outstanding - the authors represent many countries, disciplines, and perspectives. The book is bursting with new ideas for thinking about consumption problems and policy in creative ways. It will be essential reading for all concerned with the future of the global environment.
Richard Wilk, Indiana University, USA

Table of Contents

Table of contents. List of figures. List of tables. List of contributors. Preface. Introduction. Consumption, environment and public policy (J. Murphy, M. Cohen). The Politics of Sustainable Consumption. The emerging international policy discourse on sustainable consumption (M. Cohen). Sustainable consumption and environmental policy in the European Union (J. Murphy). Values, Ethics and Sustainable Consumption. Liberal neutrality and consumption: the dispute over fur (M. Oksanen). Economics, ethics and green consumerism (J. Paavola). Place, Space and Networks: Geographies of Sustainable Consumption. Sustaining foods: organic consumption and the socio-ecological imaginary (D. Goodman, M. Goodman). Changing nature: the consumption of space and the construction of nature on the 'Mayan Riviera' (M. Redclift). Sustainable Consumption: Technology, Culture and People. Working for beans and refrigerators: learning about environmental policy from Mexican northern-border consumers (J. Heyman). Control and flow: rethinking the sociology, technology and politics of water consumption (H. Chappells et al.). Identity, Behaviour and Lifestyle: the Social Psychology of Sustainable Consumption. Environmental concern and anti-consumerism in the self-concept: do they share the same basis? (S. Zavestoski). Sustainable lifestyles: rethinking barriers and behaviour change (K. Hobson). Conclusion: Working Toward Sustainable Consumption. Sustainable consumption by design (K. Fletcher et al.). Sustainable consumption: environmental policy and the social sciences (J. Murphy, M. Cohen). Index.