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Feasibility and scope of life-cycle approaches to sustainable consumption

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A boost to sustainability

Out-of-the-box recommendations needed to understand and influence consumer behaviour can help promote sustainability and a cleaner environment.

Climate Change and Environment

The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation that emerged in 2002 was meant to reinvigorate global commitment to sustainable development. The EU-funded project 'Feasibility and scope of life-cycle approaches to sustainable consumption' (Fescola) supported the EU's application of the plan which covers sustainable patterns of production and consumption. The project advocated the use of more environmentally friendly and functionally similar products and services, as well as prioritising activities which pollute less and foster more sustainable consumption patterns. Fescola observed that consumer consumption decisions are influenced by infrastructure, habit, time constraints, money matters, availability and cultural influences, among others. Based on its analysis of consumption, it outlined a set of recommendations to achieve the project's aims. One recommendation involved outlining how emissions increase and who is responsible for them in a bid to enlighten consumers about sustainability issues. This also involves conducting case studies on specific areas of luxury consumption to raise the issue as well. Another recommendation is to develop scenario techniques, i.e. alternatives, to sustainable consumption. Measuring established consumption scenarios against past patterns of development and embedding the information to introduce new policies could improve consumption decisions dramatically. The project also called on interdisciplinary initiatives that integrate social science research and life-cycle methods to further sustainability. This would be accompanied by improvements in research design, household self-assessments to evaluate environmental impact and several other tools. Once these tools and ideas reach policymakers, municipalities and businesses, new sustainable consumption policies are likely to emerge.

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