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Excessive... but not wasteful? Exploring young people's material consumption through the lens of divestment

Collins, RC; (2014) Excessive... but not wasteful? Exploring young people's material consumption through the lens of divestment. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Recent decades have been marked by growing awareness of the need for more sustainable consumption across society. Young people have been identified as well-placed to drive new (sustainable) modes of consumption through their participation in trend-setting youth cultures, as well as their roles as influential members of households. Yet, whilst the socio-cultural situation of young people makes them an appealing focus for sustainability promoters, the ways in which socio-cultural factors both enable and constrain their capacity to consume sustainably has been the subject of little investigation. The aim of this thesis has been to extend understanding of young people’s consumption in order to increase the efficacy of sustainability initiatives targeting youth. As a corrective to the preoccupation with acquisition that has dominated extant youth consumption studies, this project has taken divestment as its focus. Not only has this permitted a response to accusations of wastefulness amongst the young, it has focused much-needed attention on the socio-cultural forces underpinning young people’s relationships with their possessions. Based on qualitative research with young people in East Anglia, this thesis argues that the problem of waste (and thus unsustainability) in young people’s consumption does not (primarily) concern the flow of items into the waste stream. Rather, waste is produced when possessions fall out of use and remain unused over time, and this is driven by lack of agency in response to powerful socio-cultural forces. It is suggested that addressing this requires facilitating young people’s attempts to contest waste-making imperatives within extant cultural norms, and that sustainability promoters might attend to this through building young people’s competence, self-efficacy and desire to prolong the lives of their possessions. In sum, this thesis argues that young people can drive sustainable consumption if they are able to reclaim power over their consumption from the market and consumer culture.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Excessive... but not wasteful? Exploring young people's material consumption through the lens of divestment
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > VP: International
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1417881
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