Veolia asked the London School of Economics to explore UK Urban Lifestyle scenarios for 2050. These are their fascinating conclusions…
Increased fuel and food prices, declining levels of exploration of non-renewable resources and successful business models that achieve more with less have questioned our model of economic growth based on the exploitation of finite resources. Yet the transformation of the UK towards a circular economy remains slow, largely due to our politics and economy being locked into resource-intensive pathways that were dictated by previous technological and industrial revolutions.
However, increasing evidence suggests that this does not have to be the case and change can originate from our cities. We live in an age where rapid technology innovation has created a paradigm shift in the way we live, work and consume. With the majority of the world’s population now urbanised, cities are at the centre of a resource revolution.
Cities may be at the heart of many of our most pressing environmental and resource depletion problems, but they also display unique characteristics that can provide solutions to these environmental and social challenges by accelerating the transition towards a more sustainable future.
Many of our consumption patterns and lifestyle choices are keeping us locked-in to unsustainable, resource-intensive behaviours that are difficult to break out of. One of the main problems is that our lifestyles are so closely related to existing institutions, value systems and trends in society. Without large-scale change on every level, it will be extremely difficult to change individual lifestyles.
However, simple changes to one lifestyle driver can have knock-on effects for many others, creating a virtuous circle of change that can steer us towards greater sustainability. One example is local council recycling schemes. By making recycling bins available to households, people find it easier to separate waste. Over time it creates new habits that shape a new set of social norms about the value of resources, which then spill over into other aspects of people’s daily lives and consumption patterns.