Sustainable Consumption - Mapping the Terrain: An Exploratory Review of Contested Themes and their Representation in Consumer Education

By Daniel Fischer.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This article sets out to merge two strands of discussion. The first strand refers to the post-
Rio discourse and the growing interest in sustainable consumption both in the academic literature
and in policy making. Yet and despite many efforts towards an integration of the field, sustainable consumption remains a controversial concept that lacks a consensual definition and that can best be perceived of as an umbrella term accommodating a wide scope of competing discourses. The second strand refers to the role of education in the context of sustainable consumption. Education features prominently on the agenda of political efforts related to changing unsustainable consumption patterns and the dissemination of more sustainable lifestyles. The current rhetoric of education as a “tool” to achieving sustainable development objectives has been criticized for illegitimately attempting to instrumentalize education for political means.
In light of this pedagogical principles have been formulated to commit educational practice to treat controversial issues as controversial and not to overwhelm students with desirable opinions (Beutelsbach Consensus).
This article provides a heuristic mapping of key themes in the context of sustainable consumption and discusses their representation in teaching resources. A twofold approach is followed. In a systematic review of both introductory academic literature from different disciplinary contexts and teaching resources, themes addressed in the context of sustainable consumption are identified using a general inductive approach (Thomas 2006). In the next step, the identified sets of themes are related to each other, merged into a heuristic map of sustainable consumption and critically discussed against the background of the propositions of the Beutelsbach consensus. Finally, the findings are summarized and an outlook is given on potential foci of further research in the field of education for sustainable consumption.

Keywords: Sustainable Consumption, Education for Sustainable Consumption, Consumer Education, Transformative Education, Consumer Culture

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp.207-226. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.753MB).

Daniel Fischer

Research Assistant, PhD Candidate, Project BINK (Educational Institutions and Sustainable Consumption), Institute for Environmental and Sustainability Communication, Institute for Environmental and Sustainability Communication, Leuphana University of Lueneburg, Lueneburg, Germany

Daniel Fischer is a trained teacher and holds a masters degree in “Educational Management and School Development”. In his PhD research in the social sciences, he is facilitating and studying cultural change processes in educational institutions. His areas of expertise are education for sustainable development, sustainable consumption and sustainable school development.


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