The Potential for Community Groups to Promote Sustainable Living

By Michael Derek Peters, Philip Sinclair and Shane Fudge.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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

In recent times there has been a growing recognition amongst policy-makers of the role for community-based action in contributing to the broader aims of energy policy and climate change. In this paper, we will examine the potential for existing community groups to use their influence and elements of internal cohesion to encourage more widespread understanding and adoption of sustainable lifestyle habits; both amongst their members and within the broader communities of which they are a part. Findings are presented from recent empirical work with a range of well-established community groups for whom environmental issues are not their main priority. A central aspect of the research was to explore both the current status and potential role of groups that may have the capacity to reach and influence a broader sphere of the public than energy/environment specific initiatives of recent times have been able to achieve. Representing a diversity of interests, age groups and functionality, the results suggest that the potential for more effective ‘bottom-up’ engagement on climate change and sustainable living might be given fresh impetus by these types of established community groups and their networks. An assessment of what motivates participation and membership in the groups highlights a series of factors common to all groups and a smaller number that are significant for particular groups individually. It is argued that an appreciation of motivating factors can be useful in understanding more clearly how such groups are able to survive and maintain cohesion over time. The findings also suggest that climate change action means different things for different groups, with the diversity of the groups bringing with it the challenge of making sustainable living relevant to a range of interests and different shared values.

Keywords: Community Action on Climate Change, Sustainable Consumption and Behaviour, Bottom-up Engagement, Social Organization

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 8, pp.35-54. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.352MB).

Dr. Michael Derek Peters

Senior Research Fellow, Research Group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment, Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK

Dr. Michael Peters coordinates research on environmental education and community engagement in low carbon social change initiatives. He holds a BSc in Rural Environment Studies (London) and a PhD in the environmental performance of SMEs. Michael has presented his work on community engagement in climate change widely at national and international conferences. In 2009 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is lead editor of ‘Low Carbon Communities: Imaginative Approaches to Combating Climate Change Locally’ (Peters, M., Fudge, S. and Jackson, T. (Eds.) published September 2010, Edward Elgar Ltd.).

Dr. Philip Sinclair


Shane Fudge

Research Fellow, Research Group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK


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