Inderscience Publishers

Changing lifestyles in transition routes towards sustainable household consumption patterns

Recent decades have witnessed increasing consumption levels, and associated production levels, notably in the Western industrialised world. Past and future trends in household metabolic rates and the environmental impacts thereof are studied within the interdisciplinary research programme HOMES (Household Metabolism Effectively Sustainable). Drawing on empirical research largely from the Netherlands, it was concluded that Dutch trends follow the general Western patterns. Considering the driving forces underlying these developments, there appear no short-term signs of shifts towards sustainable household consumption patterns. In order to cut down the environmental impacts of household consumption, sustainable options that aim to reduce household metabolic rates have to be (re)designed, and ways to implement them need to be identified. Changes in lifestyles might significantly reduce or increase the environmental impacts of consumer activities. We present the results of a scenario-based study in which the environmental impacts of various lifestyles are compared with long-term sustainability objectives. Specific options for reducing the energy requirements of various consumer lifestyles are identified for different time frames: present day, short term (2005) and mid term (2015). The results presented can be summarised as follows: while present trends are towards unsustainability and environmental deterioration, a reversal of these trends is feasible if this reversal starts very soon and is continued for decades.

Keywords: household consumption patterns, lifestyles, total energy use, transition routes, The Netherlands, sustainability

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