Doctoral thesis

Sustainable Consumption, Green Citizenship and Well-being: Understanding the “Zero Waste” Lifestyle Movement in Urban China

ContributorsZhan, Xinyu
Imprimatur date2023
Defense date2023

Faced with unprecedented challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, individuals across the globe are participating in transformations towards more sustainable societies, and pro-environmental engagements are increasingly carried out in the form of sustainable consumption. This doctoral research examines this phenomenon among the new middle-classes in urban China by looking into the emerging “zero waste” movement – a lifestyle practice that seeks to minimize waste and individual carbon and material footprints through sustainable and voluntary reduction in consumption. It explores ways in which eco-conscious citizen-consumers practice zero waste, negotiate environmental activism, and promote more sustainable systems of consumption and production at the local level.

The four articles in this research mobilize distinct conceptual tools in the studies of sustainable consumption and social movements to appraise zero waste from distinct perspectives. The first article focuses on waste minimization practices at home: it uses social practices theories and material semiotic approaches to illustrate ways in which waste generation and consumption is embedded in cultural norms, social interactions and prefigured by the material arrangements of everyday life. The second article zooms out to the sustainable communities of zero waste: it relates zero waste practices to a needs-based framework human well-being, to show how sustainable and reduced consumption could enhance individual and collective well-being. The third and fourth article approach zero waste as an expression of ecological citizenship and a form of everyday environmentalism, whose practices are carefully negotiated in the unique socio-political context in China, against the collective aspirations for more rapid, radical and structural changes. These articles present to the readers the different “faces” of a grassroot sustainable lifestyle movement in China, and offer valuable insights into sustainable consumption and lifestyle as a driver for demand-side solution for climate change mitigation and a bottom-up force for social change.

  • Sustainable consumption
  • Ecological citizenship
  • Environmental activism
  • Zero waste
  • China
Citation (ISO format)
ZHAN, Xinyu. Sustainable Consumption, Green Citizenship and Well-being: Understanding the “Zero Waste” Lifestyle Movement in Urban China. 2023. doi: 10.13097/archive-ouverte/unige:175631
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