A Use Less Revolution

Everything we have identified points to the technical possibility that we can use less, but in order to achieve this, we need to change peoples attitudes and actions.


The evidence presented in the earlier part of this narrative shows that (i) the only way to make a significant cut in industrial emissions is to make less material and (ii) we – in the rich countries – could live perfectly well with products that use half as much material and last for twice as long. However, even though this is technically possible, it isn’t a choice that any major group is pursuing: the three major ‘stakeholders’ of emissions policy – householders, government and industry – are all ‘locked-in’ to today’s pattern of high and growing material consumption, and none is naturally lobbying to use less.

This means that in trying to find the triggers for change that would bring about a reduction in our material consumption, we have to expand our thinking beyond the immediate concerns of what is possible or attractive in the short term. This will be a core agenda for our research group in future, and a key step forward in developing our thinking was the Discussion Meeting we held in September 2016 with an extraordinarily broad range of academics, from public health through theology to economics, social psychology and anthropology. The discussions of this meeting are recorded in a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, and formed the basis for our response to the UK government’s green paper on industrial strategy. The sections that follow describe elements of the journey to creating a use-less revolution, but there are broader overviews available at:

The editorial paper of the Royal Society special issue – which summarises the extraordinarily inter-disciplinary view we gathered at the meeting

Our response to the UK Government’s 2017 ‘Green Paper’ on Industrial Strategy, in which we propose three actions to combine the goals of carbon emissions reduction with those of industrial growth in the UK