Shopping for sustainability: Can sustainable consumption promote ecological citizenship?

Gill Seyfang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

245 Citations (Scopus)


Ecological citizenship is a justice-based account of how we should live, based upon private and public action to reduce the environmental impacts of our everyday lives on others. This paper examines ecological citizenship at perhaps its most mundane, yet its most ubiquitous and fundamental level: the choices and actions which individuals and households make on a daily basis, in the supermarket and on the high street. ‘Sustainable consumption’ has become a core policy objective of the new millennium in national and international arenas, and the paper critically evaluates the UK policy model of sustainable consumption as a tool for ecological citizenship. It first reviews the debate about sustainable consumption and describes two competing perspectives: one concerned with reform of the mainstream, and another more radical alternative. It then appraises the mainstream policy model of sustainable consumption in the light of ecological citizenship goals, and identifies a number of failures. Turning to the alternative perspective of sustainable consumption, a number of initiatives are discussed which are able to overcome the limitations of the mainstream model in enabling individual consumers to be good ecological citizens. Finally, the policy implications of this analysis are drawn out in order to nurture the practice of ecological citizenship.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-306
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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