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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Sustainable Consumption

KIM HUMPHERY

RMIT University, Australia

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs222

The term “sustainable consumption” is subject to a range of definitions, though all of them identify a need for change in consumption practices, especially in affluent economies. This perspective is driven primarily by a concern for the environmental impact of the consumption of goods and services in terms of both the depletion of unrenewable natural resources and the production and disposal of consumer waste. Some definitions attend also to issues of global economic equity and social and psychological wellbeing in challenging the logic of high-consumption economies and lifestyles. Beyond such generality, there are widely varying conceptions of how consumption should be transformed. Dominant policy approaches to sustainable consumption tend to emphasize informed consumer choice and improved production processes as vehicles for altering consumption patterns. This does not seek to challenge a global consumer capitalism, but to incrementally manage its environmental and social consequences. Less circumscribed approaches seek to change not only the patterns but the levels of consumption characteristic of affluent economies, as well as the values or conventions that drive unsustainable consumption practices. These approaches variously emphasize individual lifestyle change, collective and local forms of market provision, and/or transformations in the sociotechnical infrastructures and ...

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