Reconceptualizing lifestyles: a time-use approach to

Reconceptualizing lifestyles: a timeuse approach
Adina Dumitru & Ricardo García Mira
University of A Coruña
What are the main determinants of current unsustainable
What are the obstacles to sustainable lifestyles and what role do
patterns of time-use play? What are the trade-offs between
temporal, material and environmental dimensions of our
What types of changes are necessary for sustainable lifestyles to
become mainstream?
What alternative systems of consumption and provision would
need to be set in place for transitions to sustainable lifestyles
to be possible?
Zooming in
“Run, run always faster, not to reach an objective, but to maintain the
status quo, to simply remain in the same place.” (Hartmut Rosa)
No consistent transition to sustainable lifestyles
Lifestyle changes in an area by area approach are not sufficient from
an environmental impact point of view
Lifestyles are the result of efforts to reach multiple goals under
complex constraints
Overwork and overconsumption – a treadmill
Complaints over stress, lack of time, overwork, meaninglessness,
loneliness – lack of wellbeing
Economic limitations of resource depletion due to overconsumption
A new perspective on lifestyles
People choose how to use time by pursuing activities for
different goals
Traditionally, analyses of how to support lifestyle change start
from specific behaviors and the identification of factors
influencing them
GLAMURS moves away from:
- An additive perspective on lifestyles
- Sustainable consumption as a proxy for sustainable
Lifestyles in GLAMURS
A lifestyle - an outcome of a multitude of decisions about how to use
time undertaken at an individual level & a socially-shared symbolic
entity which conveys particular meanings and thus enters a “social
Material consumption as “infrastructure” through which certain activities
are performed; present, in varying degree, in all human activities
Lifestyles are:
- a result of choices of time-use/activities and associated consumption,
- bundled together in an observable everyday structure of life,
- with individual and social symbolic connotations (thus is used to
satisfy individual needs and indicate, establish and negotiate our
position in a social group; organize our social life in culturally
meaningful ways).
A time-use approach
Time-use approaches – a useful way of studying conditions for
transitions to sustainable lifestyles and a green economy, as:
All human activities take time: work, leisure, getting from one
place to another etc.
time is a limited resource, and people experience increasing
time scarcity & time pressure
an absolute limit to consumption
the experience of acceleration and time pressure - an
increasing complaint of European societies, and a motivator
for lifestyle change
The effects of time scarcity on consumption-intensive activities “work and spend” cycle (Schor, 1992)
Societal evolution towards consumption-intensive lifestyles
has not led to more time affluence & wellbeing.
Being time affluent supports life satisfaction, while being
materially affluent does not, when it relates to high working
Working many hours might decrease the likelihood that
people will spend time to act in ecologically sustainable
ways (Kasser, 2006)
The work-leisure balance
Increased work productivity and material affluence has not
contributed to time affluence
Working hours have decreased overall – yet acceleration is
experienced – How does acceleration and time pressure
relate to consumption, pro-environmental and community
activities – to (un)sustainable lifestyles?
The effects of time scarcity on consumption or consumptionintensive activities such as
- eating pre-processed foods; travelling further away to relax
in exotic places for shorter periods of time; extensive car use
Analyse lock-ins, vicious spirals with negative environmental,
social and economic outcomes; find ways to support virtuous
Empirical research
Qualitative and quantitative exploration into determinants
of key lifestyle choices – both rare and frequent
- Focus groups
- In-depth interviews
- Regional survey
- Sustainable lifestyles initiative survey
- Desired future lifestyles – back-casting scenario
development workshops
Implications of a time-use perspective
From discrete consumption behaviors or even specific
environmentally-relevant activities, towards the division of
time-use in everyday life
Choices regarding time-use and the reasons behind them
become the focus of inquiry
Implications of a time-use perspective
- Focusing on people´s choices of time use gives us the
possibility to look at complex motivations & the level of lock-in
related to participating in accepted social practices – a more
realistic account of obstacles
- Shift in our understanding of sustainability policy – e.g.: new
working arrangements;
What would you change in our European lifestyles in the
period up to 2025?
What areas of policy might need to be addressed if we adopt
a time-use perspective in sustainability policy? Institutional
divisions to be bridged?

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