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Community-Led Initiatives and SDG12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Community-led initiatives promote more responsible consumption and production in various ways, many of them integral to their values, visions, aims and methods. Community-led and owned processes and institutions for organising production are increasingly in areas such as food,[1] energy,[2] and housing,[3], and may be supported by community currencies that embed principles and values of social and environmental responsibility.[4] Localising cycles of production, supply, use and disposal ensures that both positive and negative consequences of production and consumption are experienced by and visible to those who are directly involved. Circular economy and similar methods that emphasise cyclic rather than linear material flows allow fostering of synergies among local stakeholders and create feedback loops that enable adjustments in response to unanticipated negative impacts. [5]

Greater emphasis on satisfying needs and achieving well-being through creation and use of social rather than material capital has been identified as a key dimension of sustainability,[6] and is central to the promotion of more responsible consumption and production by CLIs. An emphasis on creating social capital (along with natural, cultural and other forms of capital) allows ecovillages have achieved reported levels of well-being equal to those of residents of affluent and prosperous North American urban neighbourhoods, based on far lower levels of material consumption.[7]. This is achieved through numerous strategies, found in different forms across the ecovillage movement: pooled economy, shared work, work-life balance, inclusive decision making, conflict resolution, limited hierarchy, dimensioned communal group, celebration, new values and common worldview, deeper personal relationships and openness, physical contact, child-centred perspectives, self development practices, inclusiveness, emphasis on arts and culture, healthy food, physical activity, proximity to nature, environmental activism and ecologically responsible behaviours.[8] Most ecovillages and co-housing projects have per capita ecological footprints far below national averages, for several reasons: lower per capita built area (due to the promotion of shared spaces), local and sustainable resources used and climate adapted buildings, renewable energy production, local food production and consumption (and mainly vegetarian diets) as well as low-carbon transportation (such as bikes and car sharing), and minimising and repurposing material waste.[9]


  1. Kirwan, J., Ilbery, B., Maye, D., Carey, J., 2013. Grassroots social innovations and food localisation: An investigation of the Local Food programme in England. Global Environmental Change 23, 830–837.
  2. Seyfang, G., Haxeltine, A., 2012. Growing grassroots innovations: exploring the role of community-based initiatives in governing sustainable energy transitions. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 30, 381–400.
  3. Nelson, A. & F. Schneider (eds.), 2018. Housing for Degrowth. Principles, models, challenges and opportunities.
  4. Seyfang, G., Longhurst, N., 2013. Analysis: Growing green money? Mapping community currencies for sustainable development. Ecological Economics 86, 65–77.
  5. Barani, Shahrzad, Amir Hossein Alibeygi, and Abdolhamid Papzan. “A Framework to Identify and Develop Potential Ecovillages: Meta-Analysis from the Studies of World’s Ecovillages.” Sustainable Cities and Society 43 (November 2018): 275–89.
  6. Bridger, J.C., Luloff, A.E., 2001. Building the Sustainable Community: Is Social Capital the Answer? Sociological Inquiry 71, 458–472.
  7. Mulder, K., Costanza, R., Erickson, J., 2006. The contribution of built, human, social and natural capital to quality of life in intentional and unintentional communities. Ecological Economics 59, 13–23.
  8. Hall, R., 2015. The ecovillage experience as an evidence base for national wellbeing strategies. Intellectual Economics 9, 30–42.
  9. Daly, M., 2017. Quantifying the environmental impact of ecovillages and co-housing communities: a systematic literature review. Local Environment 22, 1358–1377.