CONSENSUS, a research project on sustainable consumption involving NUI Galway and Trinity College Dublin researchers, has successfully been awarded an additional €454,000 in funding from the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out further research. It is the first all-island, large-scale research project examining solutions for sustainable consumption in Irish households with more than €1.4 million invested since 2009.
CONSENSUS (Consumption Environment Sustainability) will feature on RTÉ’s Eco Eye programme this evening, Tuesday 28th January at 7pm. This episode ‘2050’ is based on the question; “What will the world look like in 2050 and what will these changes mean for us in Ireland?” On the programme, CONSENSUS team members, including Dr. Henrike Rau from the School of Political Science and Sociology, will be discussing how our everyday lives might evolve in the future to reduce our impact on the environment through cultural change, technology and policy innovation.
Some of the research found to date includes Persistent Gaps between Water Consumption Concerns and Actions where 80% of respondents stated there was a need to conserve water and 43% felt that they could save more water. Research also found High Levels of Environmental Concern, with 86% stating they were concerned about environmental issues. There was also an Awareness of Food Waste with 89% trying to reduce food waste and 46% composting their food waste.
Research also showed High Levels of Car Dependency, with 71% commuting to work, school or college by car and 7% using public transport to commute. Respondents stated A Desire for Government Action on Energy Issues, with 38% saying they would like to source more energy from renewable sources and 14% would like more environmental protection laws.
The project’s innovative and collaborative research initiatives have involved stakeholders in the Republic and Northern Ireland along with over 2,000 members from the public. Today, CONSENSUS is announcing its next phase of research, CONSENSUS#2, which will run until December 2015 and will test novel methodologies for identifying and supporting innovations for sustainable consumption practices. It examines innovative and radical actions that society, government and business can address to achieve sustainable household consumption.
One aspect of the research will be the development of a lifestyle segmentation model that will identify different segments of the population according to their environmental actions and attitudes. Speaking about the benefits of this research, Dr. Frances Fahy, Department of Geography at NUI Galway commented, “This research will assist in the development of tailored educational, policy and social media initiatives for sustainable behaviours in Ireland, helping to improve their effectiveness. The segmentation model will be basedon the results of our survey of 1,500 people across Ireland, North and South.”
The first phase of CONSENSUS also revealed changes in people’s consumption behavior across the life course. CONSENSUS#2 will investigate how certain life events, for example moving home or having a baby can affect consumption activities in relation to physical mobility, including car ownership and use and routes people choose for their daily travel. It will also make recommendations on how to develop effective policies that focus on these life events to encourage more sustainable mobility practices like cycling, walking and public transport use.
Dr. Henrike Rau, Environmental Sociologist at NUI Galway and leader of mobility-related research in CONSENSUS#2 states, “We know that people’s consumption habits can change dramatically in response to major life events such as moving to a new place, the transition from education to employment or the arrival of the first child. Our research will focus on whether and how people’s physical mobility change around these events.”
Another goal of CONSENSUS#2 will be the establishment of “Living Labs” with Irish householders to trial and evaluate new, sustainable ways of carrying out everyday washing and eating practices. To find out more about CONSENSUS visit www.consensus.ie and to see a short animation video on the Lifestyle Survey visit www.consensus.ie/lifestyle-survey/