Parallel Session 9: Sustainable lifestyles for the resource efficient and circular economy

Achieving carbon footprint reduction requires a change in energy sources, increasing building and appliance efficiency, and changing lifestyles. According to Detlef van Vuuren, Professor in Integrated Assessment of Global Environmental Change, Utrecht University, individuals and households adopting a sustainable lifestyle is the least considered option applied to climate prediction models.

However, studies show lifestyle changes, such as decreasing meat consumption, not only reduce emissions, but are also responsible for predicted reductions in water, energy and land use requirements, subsequently allowing for biodiversity restoration. Lifestyle changes are therefore integral to meeting ambitious climate targets and limiting global warming to below 2°C by 2030.

Dr Lewis Akenji, Executive Director of SEED, highlighted the need for personal carbon footprints to reduce to 3 tonnes by 2030. Industrialised countries such as Finland, currently at 10.4 tonnes per person per year, will need to reduce by more than 70% to achieve the goal, whilst China, at 4.2 tonnes per person per year, will only have reduce carbon emissions by 30% per person.

However, challenges to achieving sustainable lifestyles exist in the ‘layers of influence’ surrounding personal needs. Uncontrollable factors relating to personal situation and socio-technical conditions predetermine how lifestyle needs are met, and so act as barriers to changing them. Akenji further held brand owners, the power players in production systems, responsible for influencing consumption. Targeting brand owner habits and increasing understanding of where power hotspots lie in industry, alongside institutional change, will allow progression towards lifestyle change.

Speaking last in the highly engaging lecture, Malin Pettersson-Beckeman, Head of Sustainability, Communications & Engagement at the Inter IKEA Group, demonstrated how IKEA are answering calls for brand owner responsibility. The brand has taken considerable steps to achieving a goal of becoming climate positive and inspiring and enabling 1 billion people to live healthy and sustainable lives by 2030. They aim to do this by becoming circular, and making sustainable products and services both affordable and attractive to as many people as possible.  IKEA are starting to design every product from the very beginning to be repurposed, repaired, resold and eventually recycled, sourcing 97% of their wood from FSC certified sources and working to develop bio-based glue.

The overriding message is that individuals and companies must work together to integrate sustainable living into daily life, that is accessible to all, and contributes to a circular economy. However, government policies must also be put into action to strengthen sustainable approaches and optimise the adoption of future measures to considerably improve carbon footprints.

Rachel Fishman, University of Bristol, UK