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Jackson-2005 - STATE OF THE DEBATE Live Better by Consuming...

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STATE OF THE DEBATE Live Better by Consuming Less? Is There a “Double Dividend” in Sustainable Consumption? Tim Jackson Summary Industrial ecology has mainly been concerned with improving the efficiency of production systems. But addressing consump- tion is also vital in reducing the impact of society on its environ- ment. The concept of sustainable consumption is a response to this. But the debates about sustainable consumption can only really be understood in the context of much wider and deeper debates about consumption and about consumer behavior it- self. This article explores some of these wider debates. In par- ticular, it draws attention to a fundamental disagreement that runs through the literature on consumption and haunts the debate on sustainable consumption: the question of whether, or to what extent, consumption can be taken as ‘‘good for us.’’ Some approaches assume that increasing consumption is more or less synonymous with improved well-being: the more we consume the better off we are. Others argue, just as ve- hemently, that the scale of consumption in modern society is both environmentally and psychologically damaging, and that we could reduce consumption significantly without threaten- ing the quality of our lives. This second viewpoint suggests that a kind of ‘‘double dividend’’ is inherent in sustainable consump- tion: the ability to live better by consuming less and reduce our impact on the environment in the process. In the final analysis, this article argues, such ‘‘win-win’’ solutions may exist but will require a concerted societal effort to realize. Keywords consumer behavior consumer choice consumer culture evolutionary psychology industrial ecology symbolic interactionism Address correspondence to: Prof. Tim Jackson Centre for Environmental Strategy University of Surrey Guildford GU2 7XH United Kingdom <[email protected]> <www.surrey.ac.uk/eng/scripts/staff.pl?name=JacksonT> © 2005 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University Volume 9, Number 1–2 http://mitpress.mit.edu/jie Journal of Industrial Ecology 19
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S TAT E O F T H E D E B AT E Industrial Ecology and Consumption Over the past decade or so, industrial ecol- ogy has successfully focused attention on im- proving the resource efficiency of the systems of production. Reusing, remanufacturing, and recycling end-of-life products, using the wastes of one production process as inputs to an- other, and redesigning products, processes, and supply chains for improved efficiency all offer clear environmental benefits to industrial society (Geyer and Jackson 2004; Graedel and Allenby 1995; Guide and van Wassenhove 2004; Jackson 1996). Over the same decade, it has become increas- ingly clear that such interventions will not, by themselves, deliver sustainable development. It is not enough for us to devise ever more effi- cient industrial processes. It is not enough to engineer cleaner and more clever technologies.
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