CONSENSUS: Consumption, Environment, and Sustainability

CONSENSUS uses innovative social science and collaborative research methods to explore trends and solutions for sustainable household consumption in Ireland (North & South). Launched in 2009, the project involves researchers from Trinity College Dublin and the National University of Ireland, Galway. CONSENSUS is funded by the STRIVE (Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for the Environment) Programme which is administered by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency.

Our research aims to advance knowledge on:

  • Drivers of and incentives for sustainable behavior change (focusing on everyday consumption practices)
  • The measurement and evaluation of sustainable household consumption practices
  • The links between consumption, health and wellbeing
  • The governance of household consumption through institutional practice and participation

Everyday consumption practices

Patterns of household consumption are increasingly recognised as at the heart of sustainability challenges including climate change, resource depletion and social inequality. CONSENSUS’s research focuses on four challenging areas of household transportfoodenergy and water consumption. Achieving sustainable lifestyles will involve fundamental changes to how our everyday needs for things like warmth and mobility are created and met. We explore how our everyday practices might be made more sustainable involving integrated changes in technology and policy, and also socio-cultural changes including new norms, expectations and skills. We evaluate the systems of governance, collaboration and variety of interventions that may promote sustainable consumption practices.

CONSENSUS Phase I (2009 – 2013)

Phase One of CONSENSUS (2009-2013) comprised foundational research including an all-Ireland survey on attitudes and actions amongst householders towards sustainable consumption. It also included analysis of sustainable consumption governing tools and initiatives internationally making recommendations for the Irish context. Our work-packages on home energy, water and food  consumption applied participatory backcasting techniques. These involved stakeholders and citizen-consumers in the design of future visions and action plans for sustainable heating, washing and eating practices. Our mobility research used mixed methods focusing on the potential of teleworking and workplace travel plans to promote sustainable mobility practices.

CONSENSUS Phase II (2014 – 2015)

Phase II of CONSENSUS is designed to build upon key findings from Phase I. This Phase launched following extension funding awarded by the EPA in 2014. It comprises three complementary work-packages:

  1. Lifestyle segmentation profiling will be developed from our all-island survey data to define key lifestyle profiles in Ireland to enable more effective, targeted interventions for sustainable living
  2. HomeLabs will prototype and evaluate technological, social and policy interventions identified in our visioning research in a number of Irish households
  3. Mobility biography mapping will examine mobility milestones (such as the purchase of the first car) and their connections with key events in people’s lives (such as having a baby) to make recommendations for interventions for sustainable mobility practices.

Collaborative research

CONSENSUS II will be carried out in collaboration with public, private and non-governmental actors to maximise impact, relevance and spin-off actions. So far we have directly engaged over 2000 members of public in our research along with 100 government, private sector, and civil society stakeholders from across Ireland (North & South). CONSENSUS II will provide tangible data and recommendations for cross-sectoral actors in Ireland and beyond to support low carbon development that combines efficiency gains with a socially just allocation of resources. If your organisation is interested in getting involved, please contact us!

CONSENSUS Research Phases