To See a World in a Grain of Sand—The Transformative Potential of Small Community Actions

In Sustainability
Volume (Issue): 12 (18)
Peer-reviewed Article

The recognition of the urgent need for more sustainable lifestyles dates from the late 20th century, originating in concerns about resource depletion and climate change. Research and policy measures have evolved since then, paying increasing attention to systemic change over individual behaviour. However, as individual behavioural change is constrained by the systems within which choices are made, more study is needed to understand better how systemic changes occur. Drawing on the experiences of the Sustainable Lifestyles and Education Programme of the UN-led One-Planet Network in collaborating with small collective actions for sustainable lifestyles, the paper analyses the needs and approaches for sustainable lifestyles and opportunities for the local actors to grow their capacities in developing ways of living sustainably. These experiences show that the pursuit of sustainable lifestyles is not a one-shot change in behaviour. It is a continuous process where actors identify and tackle locally specific opportunities for responsible and sustainable ways of living, and through a process of mutual learning and experimentation gradually shape shared visions of sustainable living. Systemic changes for sustainable living are ultimately neither about simply improving people’s awareness or attitudes or replacing some components of the external systems. They are the creation of capacities and aspirations of people actively and continuously engaging to shape alternative systems of living.