SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles 2050

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* Report: SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles 2050. By Juha Leppänen , Aleksi Neuvonen et al.

URL = http:www.sustainable-lifestyles.eu


"SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles 2050 is a European social platform project running from January 2011 to December 2012. Different societal stakeholders – from business, research, policy and civil society – have been invited to participate in the development of a vision for sustainable lifestyles in 2050. This process will result in a roadmap for strategic action that will identify opportunity spaces for policy, business, research and civil society to take action to enable more sustainable lifestyles across Europe."

The four scenarios

For a two-version quadrant summary of the four scenarios, see page 10 and 11 in the report.

Comparative lifestyle matrix see page 56-57

Singular Super Champions

"In the scenario Singular Super Champions Europe has made the leap to a new type of sustainable, competitive and equitable economy:

a result of numerous treaties, declarations and official goals starting from 2035. The leap is achieved with the deployment of market instruments that also radically reform many conditions that have shaped European lifestyles over the past decades. Cleantech and upcycling businesses flourish as sustainability has become the business opportunity of the century. Europe of Singular Super Champions is a society that celebrates an ethos of learning, achieving and self-mastery."


Singular Super Champions scenario narrative – how did it all happen?

»» The European Green New Deal

»» Transparency gets the prices right

»» The upcycling economy

»» Learning, not earning

Six-pack of most influential lifestyle triggers

1. Transparent product data allows people to understand the environmental cost of their personal consumer choices and their overall lifestyle. Comparing the sustainability of choices of food, housing, mobility and consumer goods in 2050 is as easy as comparing prices was in 2012.

2. Road pricing and the overall rise of transportation costs change housing preferences. People prefer short commuting distances, well-serviced neighbourhoods and a better access to spaciousness.

3. Improved design of public spaces and flats draws people to densely populated areas. In all countries, areas around city centres turn into the most desirable places to live. People are willing to trade off a spacious dwelling for the status and comfort provided by a flat in a central location.

4. New dietary alternatives emerge from a combination of rising food prices and increased health consciousness. Media, primary education and catering companies help environmentally rational diets become a mainstream lifestyle option.

5. Apps for personal informatics, educational software, online learning networks and a diversified educational services sector become attractive and influence people’s spending. As a result, there is less desire for material goods, as more people have excellent skills in making rational choices.

6. New upcycling approaches to consumer goods have changed product lifecycles. All material goods are sold with an additional deposit on their material resources, which encourages people to return used materials to the retailer."

Governing the Commons

"Governing the Commons is a scenario mostly in digital reality that helps people to break free from many cultural constraints and, eventually, to reach sustainability. Ubiquitous computing enables the smart use of resources and, at the same time, redirects people’s behaviour and focus of attention from material consumption and their physical surroundings to interaction in the digital realm. People abandon many institutions of the 20th century, liberate themselves in order to lead more meaningful lives and engage in new forms of collaboration.


how did it all happen?

»» The 3rd industrial revolution

»» Ubitech economy

»» Better work creates well-being

»» Wikidemocracy

Six-pack of most influential lifestyle triggers

1. All appliances and buildings are equipped with the technology to advise their users on smart use and maintenance requirements. Smart, energy efficient use is the default option. With the help of diverse and plentiful data about their own and their peers’ homes, people receive feedback that encourages them to repair their homes so they reach maximum energy efficiency.

2. Smart mobility services change the way people plan their time, and how they combine routes and modes of transport. These services help to optimize public transportation use and enable the development of vehicle and ride sharing schemes.

3. Ubiquitous technologies give rise to a new ecosystem of Peer-to-Peer—services that are available for people whenever they need or want them. These services with retrofitting homes or choosing sustainable dietary options, among other things.

4. A new generation of virtual reality and online communities becomes popular, which means a decrease in needs for large living spaces, furniture and even foodstuffs.

5. The scale up of 3D-printing changes the way people seek self-actualisation. Consuming goods designed and made by someone else is no longer the most elaborate way to express one’s identity and style. Instead, people collectively design the goods they desire and want to be identified with.

6. Online networks built on a shared interest in lifestyle issues enable people to realise their potential and to constitute themselves as groups with political power. The example and support of other network members encourages experimentation with new sustainable lifestyle patterns. Gradually these networks and experiments grow into movements that start reforming the political agenda."

Local Loops

"Local Loops is a scenario in which a radical energy crisis forces societies to re-evaluate fundamentally the foundations of their well-being.

Energy and resource systems are increasingly seen though “Local Loops”, which is a technical concept that can be applied in the context of local and regional production cycles. People build their lifestyle and ways of belonging around their work, while technology is better adapted through local design solutions, which create room for new kinds of professionalism. A new ethos of craftsmanship and professional communities shape the way people live, organize their work and spend their leisure time.


how did it all happen?

»» Peak-oil game-changer

»» Rediscovery of local resources

»» Local turn

»» Craftsman attitude

Six-pack of most influential lifestyle triggers

1. Extremely high energy and food prices persuade people to focus their choices on local and secure alternatives.

2. Tight workplace and neighbourhood-based communities enable and encourage people to share spaces and equipment. The need for living space is reduced.

3. People live close to their guild peers. Ample service options mean minimal need to commute outside the neighbourhood.

4. People prefer appliances, furniture and clothes to be sold as services. Maintenance and adaptation services are improved and they significantly prolong the lifecycle of products.

5. Consumers can no longer make mistakes: policies built on scientifically backed environmental and health objectives eliminate bad choices.

6. People eat out more. Better food services ensure a healthy diet, adjust portions to optimal size, eliminate food waste and help people focus on their work and social life."

Empathetic Communities

'Empathetic Communities is a scenario where Western societies faced a crisis they had long dreaded, and how the change turned out to be easier and more fruitful than anyone had expected.

It is a story in which the global economy as we knew it in 2012 fails, followed by paralysis of nation states and their political decision-making structures. By 2050 this all leads to lifestyles in which the community and neighbourhoods have an important role in everyday life. New forms of collaboration and governance grow on the level of cities and towns making them the most powerful level of public decision-making. In Empathetic Communities the many fruits of global culture and advancements in latest technological innovation are enjoyed, although people in general focus on communicating and developing solutions on the local level.


how did it all happen?

»» The system breaks down

»» “We can” generation works together

»» Public, private and people (PPP) – the new welfare

»» Communitisation of urban planning

Six-pack of most influential lifestyle triggers

1. Rising energy and food prices combined with a long economic downturn lead to people becoming more interested in and aware of the structures that underpin their lifestyle patterns, as well as of alternative, cost-effective solutions to current food, housing and mobility patterns.

2. Do-it-yourself (DIY) farming, energy production and retrofitting solutions gain popularity among many of the unemployed. The internet and social networks help spread best practices quickly and create space for alternative economies.

3. New local partnerships empower people to shape their neighbourhoods to better facilitate selfsufficiency in food and energy production, and in different forms of communal consumption (shared use of tools, appliances and spaces).

4. Health ceases to be an individual issue and becomes a communal one. People practice preventive healthcare in workplaces and in neighbourhoods together with their peers.

5. New tools and services for interior designs make people think about their homes in new ways. The functionality and flexibility of homes are features that people in 2050 are able to compare and improve as easily as people used to compare living space in 2012.

6. Occasional shortages change attitudes and expectations. A reduction in food, living space, consumer expenditure, travel and other leisure time activities is compensated for by the richness of social life and a sense of purpose in one’s work and communal activities."


Facts on Unsustainable Lifestyles in Europe

"The scenarios for sustainable lifestyles 2050 present four different prototypes of possible future societies that all support more sustainable lifestyles. Our lifestyle scenarios are based on the foundations of sustainable systems, and explore different options in an attempt to acknowledge the diversity among European citizens.

The critical impacts of current European lifestyles are:

• Food and drink, private transport and housing together account for 70-80% of Europe’s environmental impacts stemming from final consumption (Tukker, A., G. Huppes, et al. (2006)).

• Meat and dairy consumption alone account for almost one quarter (24%) of all final consumption impacts – by far the largest share in the food and drink sector (Weidema et al. 2008).

• Domestic heating, water consumption, appliance and electronics use accounts for 40% of Europe’s total energy consumption (with heating alone accounting for 67% of household energy consumption in the EU-27) (EEA 2010).

• Car ownership in the EU-27 increased by more than one third (35%) in the period between 1990 and 2007 (EEA 2010) and EU drivers currently own one third of the world’s 750 million cars (IEA 2010).

• In the EU-27, approximately 60% of adults and over 20% of school-age children are overweight or obese. Coronary heart diseases (CHD) often associated with fatty foods and smoking, remain the single most common cause of death in the EU (WHO 2011).'

The Material Footprint

"In order to create scenarios for sustainable lifestyles in 2050, we need definitions and common targets to specify what is meant by ”sustainable lifestyles”. In the SPREAD project we have defined the material footprint of a sustainable lifestyle at 8000 kg per annum (p.a.) for one person. This quantified target forms the fundamental assumption on which each of our four developed and previously described scenarios is built. Our scenarios describe what 8000 kg living can look like in four diverse future societies.

The 8000 kg p.a. of material footprint per person is based on the work of Michael Lettenmeier, Stefan Bringezu, Friedrich Schmidt-Bleek et al from the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy on a safe and sustainable level of natural resource use.

The material footprint is a tool to measure and manage or optimize the resource consumption of our lifestyles, including the products and production processes behind them (i.e. in the areas of consuming, moving, housing and health). In this context, our sustainable lifestyle material footprint means the use of renewable and non-renewable material resources (excl. water and air) plus the erosion caused by agriculture and forestry. It covers the whole lifecycle from the extraction of raw materials to the processing industry, distribution, consumption, recycling, and disposal. The idea of the material footprint is to provide a comprehensive and understandable tool to reduce different kinds of present and future environmental challenges (for example in the areas of food, mobility, housing and health).

When the material footprint of an average European lifestyle drops from 27000 – 40 000 (approximate current average lifestyle footprint per person) to 8000 kg per year, the environmental and resulting social impacts of our lifestyles will drop and change considerably. The material footprint thus serves as a tool to comprehensively direct lifestyles to levels within planetary boundaries as described e.g. by Johan Rockström and other scientists (see below). It also provides a way to measure progress and milestones of success towards our future sustainable lifestyle goals.

The material footprint of 8000 kg p.a. consists of household goods, food and beverages, everyday mobility and tourism, electricity, heating and housing. However, the composition of the footprint is not similar for everyone. The share of consumption in a material footprint of 8000 kg p.a. can differ based on the values, needs and aspirations of each person’s unique lifestyle. For example, some people may accumulate more of their footprint through mobility while others move less, but live in a larger apartment. Not everyone needs to live the same way, but – at least on average – everyone must live within boundaries of our planetary system in order to realize our sustainable future."


  • IEA (2010) “Energy technologies Perspectives 2010: Scenarios and strategies to 2050.”

International Energy Agency, Paris.

  • EEA (2010a) “The European environment – state

and outlook 2010: synthesis.”

  • European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.

Lettenmeier, M. (2012) “Sustainable material footprint 2050.” Presentation at the Factor X Network Meeting 13.-14.2.2012 in Berlin. D-mat, Finland.

  • Lähteenoja, S., Lettenmeier, M. & Salo, M.

(2008) “The ecological backpack: versatile indicator for sustainable consumption.” Presentation at the Con-Account Conference, 11.–12.9.2009, Charles University, Prague.

  • Rockström J. et al. (2011) “Planetary boundaries:

Exploring the safe operating space for humanity.” [1]

  • Tukker, H., et al. (2006) “Environmental impact of

products (EIPRO): Analysis of the life cycle environmental impacts related to the final consumption of the EU-25.” JRC/IPTS/ ESTO: 139, Seville.

  • UNDP (2011) “Forecasting the impacts of environmental

constraints on human development.” [2]

Weidema, B., et al. (2008) “Environmental improvement potentials of meat and dairy products.”

  • P. Eder & L. Delgado (Eds.), [3]
  • WHO (2011) “Obesity and overweight.” Fact

sheet N°311, updated March 2011.

More Information

  • Online community: www.sustainable-lifestyles.eu/community
  • Project Coordinator: UNEP/Wuppertal Institute Collaborating; Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP) [4]] ; Cheryl Hicks, Project Director: [email protected]