Sustainable Consumption Project, CONSENSUS, Secures Funding for Innovative Research

Posted on: 28 January 2014

CONSENSUS, a research project on sustainable consumption led by Trinity College Dublin, has been awarded over €450,000 in funding by the Irish EPA to support research in which new methods for developing and evaluating innovations for sustainable consumption practices will be tested in Irish households.

CONSENSUS is the first large-scale research project examining solutions for sustainable consumption on an all-Ireland basis. More than €1.3 million has been invested since 2009. In collaboration with the National University of Ireland Galway, the project’s research has involved over 2,000 members of the public, as well as key public, private and NGO stakeholders in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Trinity’s team, based in the Department of Geography, will establish ‘Living Labs’ in Irish households where participants will trial new, sustainable ways of washing and eating. Commenting on this, Principal Investigator and Professor in Geography at Trinity, Anna Davies, said: “Our previous research included visioning, scenario building and transition planning exercises. These identified innovative technical devices, regulatory interventions and educational supports to promote more sustainable washing and eating practices. In CONSENSUS#2 we will evaluate the benefits of combining these innovative proposals in real-time, real-life situations through working not only with but actually within, a range of Irish households.”

For example, householders will be encouraged to test the latest water meters and low-flow technologies and will be given instructions to help reduce water use in their personal washing activities. To encourage sustainable eating practices, new-to-market composting tools, smart food apps, and grow-your-own kits will be provided to participants, who will be encouraged to share their experiences in real-time on social media.

CONSENSUS is collaborating with public sector bodies, NGO’s, such as An Taisce, and corporate sector partners to identify households and prototype devices, and to enhance the impact of the Living Labs research. Professor Davies added: “We encourage members of the public, private actors, and people who are interested in collaborating as part of the in-household research, to get in touch.”

Drawing on results of the CONSENSUS survey with 1,500 people across Ireland, CONSENSUS researchers will also develop a lifestyle ‘segmentation model’. This will help tailor educational, policy and social media initiatives to promote sustainable consumption. Researchers will also be evaluating how major life events, such as moving home or having a baby, can be leveraged to encourage more sustainable mobility practices, such as cycling and walking.

CONSENSUS team members will feature on RTE’s EcoEye at 7:00 pm on Tuesday 28th January. They will discuss how our everyday lives might evolve in the future to reduce our impact on the environment through cultural change, technology and policy innovation. The episode ‘2050’ is based on the question: “What will the world look like in 2050 and what will these changes mean for us in Ireland?”

This programme can be viewed on RTE Player and on the Earth Horizon video channel on Youtube