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Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production
Webinar: Care for sustainable lifestyles?
Future Earth

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Webinar: Care for sustainable lifestyles?

Date: February 15, 2024

Time: 12:00 UTC  (07:00 EST | 13:00 CET | 21:00 JST)

Platform: ZOOM LINK

Early Career Researchers Webinar Series on Sustainable Lifestyles Session 1

Sylvie Lorek, Samira Iran, and Alex Hoffmann


In several countries, the 2050 threshold for carbon footprints linked to lifestyles has already been exceeded, necessitating urgent and substantial reductions. Achieving significant reductions in overall consumption levels is crucial to address the disparities between current lifestyles and sustainable benchmarks for 2050, e.g., high-income countries must cut their lifestyle-related carbon footprints by 91-95%. Addressing rising social tensions is also essential in this effort. 

Various systemic reasons are discussed in policy and science on how to induce change, overcome systemic problems, and provide constructive and positive approaches for a good life within planetary boundaries. This presentation argues that the vision of caring lifestyles within caring societies provides an appealing narrative for change. Recognizing the deep link between care and sustainability, caring lifestyles are centered on the well-being of all entities – humans, animals, and the environment. They are based on equitable resource distribution, overcoming oppression, and substantially reducing emissions and resource consumption within ecological limits. This approach is in stark contrast to the prevalent economic model focused on continuous growth. A caring society, as envisioned, would aim to fulfill everyone’s fundamental needs while respecting the planet’s ecological boundaries.

Care is multi-dimensional, involving ethical, emotional, and relational aspects and is crucial for both individual and societal survival. Managing daily life demands significant time for individuals, dedicated to personal well-being and familial care. This encompasses routine tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and laundry. Such time constraints often lead to unsustainable decisions, including driving for short trips, choosing fast food options, or purchasing new rather than second-hand goods. 

The academic literature on care work has evolved significantly over the past several decades. Early works in the 1970s and 1980s tended to focus narrowly on care work within domestic settings and paid little attention to the gendered nature of the work. Starting in the 1980s, feminist scholars began analyzing care work through a gendered lens and established care as a legitimate area of academic study. A major turning point came in 1982 with Carol Gilligan’s book In a Different Voice which highlighted an “ethic of care” perspective often embodied in women’s moral reasoning and decision making. This helped bring the concept of care to the forefront of academic discussions. During the 1980s and 1990s, the notion of an “ethic of care” was further developed and began influencing the fields of bioethics, nursing ethics, and feminist thought. By the late 20th century, the literature had broadened to examine care work not just within domestic settings but also in contexts like nursing homes and hospitals. 

Transnational dimensions were also receiving more attention as globalization transformed patterns of migration and the rise of transnational care chains. Recent works have taken increasingly intersectional approaches, analyzing how factors like gender, class, race, ethnicity, citizenship status and geography shape different groups’ experiences with care work. The sources demonstrate how the academic analysis of care work has deepened and expanded in scope over time. Early works focused narrowly on domestic labor, but the field has matured to embrace diverse contexts and perspectives on care. Feminist scholarship played a pivotal role in elevating care to a position of prominence within academia. Overall, the evolution of this literature mirrors increasing societal recognition of the importance and complexity of care work . Still care has not been discussed deeply in its relation to sustainable consumption and sustainable lifestyles. 

The care crisis and environmental crisis share a common issue – the misconception that both unpaid care work and the ecosystem are infinite due to their invisibility in traditional economic terms. This oversight in mainstream economic models leads to biased prioritization, favoring commercialization over subsistence farming, dam construction over indigenous livelihoods, and infrastructure projects over public services. The lack of consideration for unpaid care work in climate change strategies results in insufficient attention to the impact of climate impacts on caregivers and fails to assess whether interventions improve or worsen their situation. Climate-related challenges, such as droughts and water scarcity, further exacerbate the time-consuming and difficult nature of care work in affected areas, occurring without adequate support and worsening conditions.

This presentation will investigate how policy can support decommodified care work as well as the possible ecological impact of care on achieving a 1.5-degree lifestyle. For this, initially the concepts of care and sustainable lifestyle will be explored. This will be followed by recent insights of possible advantages and disadvantages of care for a 1.5-degree lifestyle. 

Speaker BIO

Samira Iran is an expert in sustainable consumption and sharing economy. She holds a PhD in sustainable and collaborative consumption in the field of fashion and has over eight years of working experience in various multi- and transdisciplinary research projects. In addition to her current role as a project lead at Hot or Cool Institute, she is working as the lead of a citizen science project on “sufficiency and minimalism” at Technische Universität Berlin. She is also Co-Founder of Fashion Revolution Iran and Executive Director of Sustainable Fashion Consumption Network  

Hosted by the Future Earth Knowledge-Action Network on Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production | Handbook of Research on Sustainable Lifestyles

The Handbook on Sustainable Lifestyles is an initiative supported by the SSCP KAN. This webinar series is an opportunity for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) who are contributing to topics that will be featured in the Handbook to present their work.