Towards sustainability: Household consumption and lifestyles in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Lavelle, Mary Josephine
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Increasing levels of global household consumption, particularly in developed countries, represent a significant sustainability problem. Although emissions across certain sectors - most notably transport and construction - have experienced a temporary decrease due to the economic downturn, overall consumption levels are escalating steadily across the island of Ireland. Increased economic activity, rise in population levels and expanding rates of urban sprawl during the 'Celtic Tiger Era' resulted in a deterioration of environmental quality across the island, as well as increases in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This thesis explores important sustainability challenges in the areas of water, energy and transport consumption - sectors that have large environmental impacts per individual household. The research provides greater understanding and insight into present consumption patterns by providing a comprehensive analysis of expressed attitudes and reported behaviours concerning consumption and lifestyles in an all-island context. Through the development and implementation of an extensive survey instrument, this research collated and identified broad trends in attitudes and behaviours concerning household consumption behaviour and lifestyles. The tool generated extensive large-scale quantitative data concerning consumption patterns on the island. Building on previous behavioural change research, these data are presented and discussed in relation to an adapted framework of environmental behaviour that unpacks the generic term 'environmental behaviour' to reveal different temporal strands of environmental activities. Employing this conceptual framework provides a more nuanced understanding of consumption behaviours. In order to further advance knowledge in this field, this study constructed an innovative typology of respondents according to their expressed attitudes and reported environmental behaviours. This pioneering tool, which was specifically designed for this research, explores respondents' reported undertaking of habitual and occasional pro-environmental behaviours. The study highlights the potential benefit of using different tailored tools to address different groups of actors in relation to specific behaviours.