- Ehrenfeld, John R., 2006, Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming Our Consumer Culture, New Haven: Yale University Press.
This book draws on systems theory to argue that most people living in western societies have become trapped in an endless cycle of ‘addictive consumption’ which has become divorced from the pursuit of ‘authentic’ needs. Originally trained as a chemical engineer, Ehrenfeld has written more than 200 books on the subject of sustainability and he is the Executive Director of the International Society for Industrial Ecology.
- Ekstrom, Karin and Kay Glans (eds), 2011, Beyond the Consumption Bubble, New York: Routledge.
Compared to the reader collated by Tim Jackson (see below), this collection of essays suggests that radical social, cultural and political changes are required to bring to an end to what book contributor Gilles Lipovetsky calls the era of ‘hyperconsumption’. The book features a range of well-written contributions from key international researchers brought together by the unlikely Swedish editorial team of marketing academic Karin Elstrom and poet/essayist Kay Glans.
- Jackson, Tim (ed), 2006, The Earthscan Reader in Sustainable Consumption, London: Earthscan, pp 109-126.
A professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey with research experience in Sweden and the UK, Tim Jackson has put together a collection of pieces by prominent scholars in the field. The book brings together journal articles, book extracts and other publications, which gives it a rather eclectic character. It has two contributions on the topic of ‘voluntary simplicity’, one of them by high profile US communitarian scholar and activist Amitai Etzioni.
- Lewis, Tania and Emily Potter (eds) 2011, Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction, London: Routledge
This is a collection of essays by a wide range of international scholars tracing the rise and diverse practices of ‘ethical consumption’.
- Humphery, Kim 2010, Excess: Anti-Consumerism in the West, Cambridge: Polity
A critical review of anti-consumerist practices which argues that the ‘politics of anti-consumerism’ needs a sophisticated understanding of our complex entanglements with the acquisition and use of materials.
- Wackermagel, Mathis and William Rees, 1998, Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth, Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society Publishers.
The well-known concept of the ‘ecological footprints’ that all people and human settlements cast through their consumption of resources and generation of disposable waste was first proposed in a PhD thesis by Mathis Wackernagel which was completed under the supervision of William Rees. The concept, which was first published in 1998, is now considered by many to be too simplistic as a diagnostic tool, but it can be a real eye-opener for people who have not thought much about the environmental impacts of consumption, and many version of the ecological footprint calculator are still in use.
Annotated Links to Further Web Resources
- UN Division for Sustainable Development
This provides access to information about trends in relation to the world’s environmental resources. The division is a remnant of the earlier UN Commission on Environment and Development (UNCED).
- UN Food and Agriculture Organisation
This provides access to statistics on trends in the consumption of global food and water resources, and a wide range of topical reports.
- UN Population Division
Situated within the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Population Division website provides access to regularly updated reports and demographic statistics.
- International Energy Agency
IEA is an independent organisation that was initially established to advise nations in the wake of the 1973/74 global oil crisis. The website provides access to information about energy source and consumption trends and predictions about future trends.
- Worldwatch Institute
This Washington-based institute was established in 1974 by farmer-turned-agricultural economist Lester Brown. It is probably best known for its annual State of the World reports, but it also publishes other reports which provide a critical perspective on sustainability policies and practices.
- Earth Policy Institute
This institute was set up by Lester Brown after he left the larger Worldwatch Institute in 2002. With a fairly small team of researchers, Earth Policy Institute has published several books by Lester Brown and it aims to provide resources for environmental activists.
- The Global Footprint Network
This was set up to promote international use of ecological footprint calculators. The website provides access to tools and programs as well as reports and ‘case stories’ on the use of calculators.
This is a user-friendly sign-up website enabling the user to track the supply chains for a designated product. It is a good learning tool, although it needs to be remembered that the information provided is not rigorously tested for accuracy.
This website aims to help consumers avoid products that have been made by forced child labour or modern-day slavery.
Annotated Links to Video Clips
- The Story of Stuff
Presented by Annie Leonard with animations, this YouTube clip became a global phenomenon, with a host of sequels and imitations being released.
- The Story of Bottled Water
A sequel to The Story of Stuff, this clip also features Annie Leonard talking, this time about the massive rise in the consumption of bottled water and what people can do about it.
- The Story of Electronics
A sequel to The Story of Stuff, this clip also features Annie Leonard, talking this time about how many components of our electronic devices are ‘designed for the dump’.
- The Story of Solutions
Following the extraordinary success of The Story of Stuff and its sequels, this clip features Annie Leonard suggesting that the kind of ingenuity that went into the creation of smart phones can also help us overcome wasteful consumption.
- The trap of materialism
A strident critique of consumerism made for UK Channel 5 by renowned UK environmental advocate and writer Jonathon Porritt. It argues that consumerism has been the most pervasive and destructive ideology of recent times.
- The Ecological Footprint, Mathis Wackernagel
In this short clip, the inventor of the Ecological Footprint, Mathis Wackernagel, discusses its importance almost 10 years after it was first released.
- A Guide to Happiness, Part 2: Epicurus on Happiness
This YouTube video is the second chapter of the documentary version of Alain de Botton’s book Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness. It provides a good introduction to Epicurean ideas on the examined life, consumerism/materialism and how to achieve real happiness.
- Status Anxiety,Alain De Botton
This YouTube video is the second part (of 5) of Alain de Botton’s documentary Status Anxiety. It focuses on the psychological implications of human consumption.
- I, Pencil
This popular 2012 video examines the components that go into the making of an apparently simple graphite pencil. This is a very well made video about global supply chains, which also looks at the history of a taken-for-granted product.