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Melanie Lukas

Self-sufficiency in daily routines


Exploring reduction strategies in a modern life
Background
Rapidly increasing levels of consumption of materials, energy, and services are fundamental drivers of global and local environmental change. But, recent sustainability
strategies still focus on innovative technologies and suffer on rebound effects, instead of rebuilding consumption strategies and support changes towards sustainable
consumption and production systems. Within the project, the consumption side and especially the strategy of (self-)sufficiency, which is often sealed to be unattractive
to the consumer in modern consumption societies, is focused.

Research Question
Do ordinary people deal with the strategy of self-sufficiency in daily life and if they do so, what
factors have an on-going effect on their actions?
And is there any potential for a self-sufficiency strategy in a sufficiency-hostile society?

Methodology
The study is based on a Grounded Theory-approach. This qualitative methodology is qualified for an open exploitation of consumer behaviour. 42 interviews with
German household members from three different age groups present the empirical data set. After the first open analysis, secondly the interviews were analysed using a
framework to cluster self-sufficiency activities as a basis for the relaunch of production and consumption systems. Regularly, the paradigma of codes and codes
families was adapted (Glaser & Strauss 1968; Strbing 2014).

Results
Are there any self-sufficiency tendencies?
Derived from the definition of several studies (e.g. Stengel, 2011; Princen, 2005) a framework of steps towards a self-sufficiency was developed and applied onto the
results. Basically the framework is able to define 3 types of behaviour (Lukas & Hasselkuss, under review):
conventional consumption, moderate self-sufficient and strong self-sufficient.
Exemplary, strong-sufficient persons tend to follow and mix up attitudes in a very special way, e.g. environmental-friendly actions are combinded with a flexible type of
decision-making. Theses consumers do not suffer from meanings such as doing without, such as conventional consumers often do, if any rejections are applied in
daily routines. All in all, the interview partners mixed up their actions within the three types of acting. That means, even if they are categorized as strong-sufficient, they
act in several fields of action in a more conventional way, e.g. within holiday journeys. Thus, a switch in between the types of action is often a unreflected part of life.

Is a self-sufficient lifestyle a more sustainable one?

Are self-sufficient social practices shaped by meanings?

Based on a archetypical analysis of the dataset*, an analysis of the


possible resource use of several consumption patterns has been possible
(using the material footprint calculator, by Wiesen, Wirges & Liedtke
unpublished). The results show, that the resource use of a conventional
consumer is from a factor of 3 till 5 higher compared with the strong selfsufficient consumer and depending on the field of action. (Fig. 1)

Consumption is not a practice itself but rather engaging in many practices requires a
certain level of consumption of goods or services (Warde 2005). Obviously, selfsufficient actions do not necessarily require any change in material and products, they
are shaped by special meaning and maybe require a change in competences. Fig. 2
displays several meanings which mainly influence related practices and which are
strongly linked with sufficiency-relevant attitudes, e.g. environmental consciousness,
health consciousness or saving money. The context of saving money is defined as a
very common meaning and strategy, which influences sufficiency practices as well as
efficiency strategies.

10000
2631,3

100%

1000

90%

Material Fotprint (t/year)

520,3

80%
70%

100

60%
50%

18,4
10

5,7
3

40%

10,5

20%

3,8
3
1,6

30%
10%
0%

Cycling

1,8

0,5

0,1

Mobility

Nutri,on

Housing

Holiday& Leisure

Less sucient consumer Strong sucient consumer Target value


Fig. 1: Comparison of resource use (Material Footprint) of a strong selfsufficient consumer and a conventional consumer in comparison
with the proposed target value (Lettenmeier et al. 2014)

Rejec,ng
animal
proteine

Growing
food

Repairing
goods

Sharing
clothes

Saving money
Environmental consciousness
Socio-ethic aFtudes

Saving food Rejec,on of Saving


waste
luxury
water,
consump,on energy by
behavior

Health consciousness
RejecBon of consumpBon cycles
Follow a trend

Fig. 2: Social practices and their relevant meanings

Self-sufficiency as STEP-BY-STEP concept (Conclusion)


Definition The definition of moderate and strong sufficient action schemes may shape a more consumer-orientated view towards self-sufficiency and is able to form a
more realistic view onto a self-sufficient acting within a modern consumer society.
Change The realisation of a strong sufficient behaviour has to be seen as a STEP-BY-STEP change in mindset, for a change in consumption but also in productionsystems. Such a change is shaped by a multi-complex relation of meanings and competences and further from life phases and life changes.
Social practice Not the person itself should be in the focus of research, instead social practices have to be considered on the way to a more specific differentiation of
self-sufficiency in daily consumption systems.
Resource use The thesis provides a rough overview onto main aspects which may influence a self-sufficient life in a consumerist society. Now, to underline the
results and to define a professionalized strategy towards a self-sufficient society, quantitative studies (focused on time use, expenditure, ressource use) of practices are
essential.
*(based on the analysis of the sample of the 42 interviews two significantly different archeytpes of consumption were established)

IAB 2014

melanie.lukas@wupperinst.org