Ecological citizenship and sustainable consumption: Examining local organic food networks
Sustainable consumption is gaining in currency as a new environmental policy objective. This paper presents new research findings from a mixed-method empirical study of a local organic food network to interrogate the theories of both sustainable consumption and ecological citizenship. It describes a mainstream policy model of sustainable consumption, and contrasts this with an alternative model derived from green or ‘new economics’ theories. Then the role of localised, organic food networks is discussed to locate them within the alternative model. It then tests the hypothesis that ecological citizenship is a driving force for ‘alternative’ sustainable consumption, via expression through consumer behaviour such as purchasing local organic food. The empirical study found that both the organisation and their consumers were expressing ecological citizenship values in their activities in a number of clearly identifiable ways, and that the initiative was actively promoting the growth of ecological citizenship, as well as providing a meaningful social context for its expression. Furthermore, the initiative was able to overcome the structural limitations of mainstream sustainable consumption practices. Thus, the initiative was found to be a valuable tool for practising alternative sustainable consumption. The paper concludes with a discussion of how ecological citizenship may be a powerful motivating force for sustainable consumption behaviour, and the policy and research implications of this.
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