What is a sustainable everyday life? : Exploring and assessing the sustainability of everyday travel, sharing and ICT

Abstract: In a world where the general trend is unsustainable consumption patterns, can sustainable everyday life be enabled? This thesis sought to expand the knowledge base for policies and measures for sustainability, based on the assumption that consumption can be viewed as the outcome of practices in which people engage in their day-to-day life. The thesis addressed the overall aim by examining the following questions: How can information and communication technology (ICT) practices contribute to sustainable everyday practices? How can sharing practices, ICT-based and other, contribute to sustainable everyday practices? and How can travel practices, ICT-based and other, contribute to sustainable everyday practices?Empirical and conceptual studies revealed that ICT has become a fundamental and integral part of everyday practices and that digitalisation is a tangible material companion with implications for sustainability. ICT changes practices in ways that can be both positive and negative from a sustainability perspective. These second-order effects need to be addressed early when developing ICT solutions/services.ICT has also contributed to development of the sharing economy, by making sharing easier and scalable. However, although some sharing practices can contribute to overall sustainability, others could display a high potential and risk, simultaneously. It is therefore important to identify and mitigate negative effects and exploit the full potential of sustainable sharing activities from a policy perspective.Everyday travel is the outcome of people’s social practices. Travel practices are therefore ultimately interlocked with other practices and spatially and temporally structured. It can thus be quite difficult for city dwellers, although not impossible, to fit in new ways of carrying out everyday city travel rather than existing travel practices. New travel practices should be viewed as complementary if there are no other enabling factors at play, such as convenience, pricing, policies and/or infrastructural changes. If some form of policy and/or infrastructural change is introduced, it is possible to change travel patterns and ultimately reduce travel. Here too, ICT could enable changes in travel practices, e.g. through mediated meetings or vehicle sharing. However, for sustainable everyday travel to become widespread, urban planning issues are important. Policy documents and environmental targets can be used proactively to legitimise new policies that enable more sustainable travel practices.This thesis shows that everyday practices, in a relatively affluent European urban context, contribute greatly to environmental impacts. Hence, how everyday practices are structured, or could be re-structured, is critical for sustainable development. Practices shape, and are shaped, by their socio-material context. This requires an overall, holistic approach, as offered by practice theory and actor-network theory. A holistic approach is crucial from a sustainability policy perspective, as it enables measures that target some, or all, of the different elements (material, meaning, skills) that constitute practice. It may also be crucial for policies addressing temporal and spatial aspects that structure practices, e.g. societal schedules and people’s homes in relation to their workplace. This presents an opportunity that policymakers could further explore and exploit.