Sustainable Living

We need to find ways for everybody to prosper within planetary limits.

Modern capitalist economies depend on growth and expanding markets to drive them forward.

However, it is difficult to see how this way of living which depends on ever-increasing resource consumption can be maintained in the twenty first century.  As a result, economists are starting to consider new approaches which focus on the social and psychological dimensions of prosperity rather than merely material considerations.

Traditionally, prosperity has been measured in terms of gross national product (GNP) and is strongly linked to notions of progress and development.  An entirely different starting point is to consider humanity’s long term goals.  The notion of the ‘doughnut economy’ proposed by Kate Raworth is a particularly imaginative proposition.  This seeks to establish a ‘safe place for humanity’ within measurable boundaries set by social deprivation on the one hand and ecological overshoot on the other (Figure 1). 

pfa-fig-1Figure 1 - Securing prosperity in the years ahead involves building on secure social foundations and respecting ecological limits. (After Raworth 2017).

Challenging materialism as a guiding economic principle is no easy matter. It is entrenched in many social and political priorities and contributes to our sense of identity and self -worth. However, sustainable living is not about ‘returning to the Stone Age’ nor is it about a radical ideology. Rather it is about aligning human and natural systems so that as many people as possible can live fulfilling lives. And it is also about safeguarding scarce resources for the benefit those who will inherit the Earth in the years to come.  

1) Watch this TED Talk to find out more about ‘doughnut economics’.  Does it make you want to be part of the ‘turnaround generation’?


2) Watch this TED talk to find out how one 14 year-old harnessed the wind.  How does this relate to Kate Raworth’s idea of a ‘safe and just space for humanity’?

“What is the meaning of value, especially in a business context? Is value expressed as the figures on a balance sheet or the effects on an environment and community? Or maybe it’s a combination of the two. And if it is a combination, in what proportions and what do we then have to focus on?”

Business Studies student

“I thought, yeah, I can do this. So I went ‘green’. Eco friendly products. Low juice and anything that’s not harmful. Going from that I don’t eat meat any more. My last meat dinner was Christmas and that was it. My waste has gone to nothing.”

Student sustainability champion

a) Do you think that people would actually be happier if they had less ‘stuff’?

b) What do you think is the best way to measure progress?

Jackson, T. (2017) Prosperity Without Growth, London: Routledge

Maxton, G. and Randers, J. (2016) Reinventing Prosperity, Vancouver: Greystone Books

Raworth, K. (2017) Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a Twentieth Century Economist, London: Penguin

Futures Thinking »

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Find out more about sustainability in practice at Canterbury Christ Church

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To hear how our students are engaging with sustainability at Canterbury Christ Church, find us on facebook and wordpress.

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Last edited: 20/11/2019 09:07:00