Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles

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The Global Survey for Sustainable Lifestyles, is one of the first global surveys on sustainable lifestyles. The results provide intriguing insights into the way young people think about their daily lives and activities, their aspirations for the future, and their beliefs about the role they play in influencing change. This survey was one of the nine projects of the Marrakech Task Force on Sustainable Lifestyles. For detailed information on this project, visit the Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles Project page.

Two reports related to the Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles are available for download:
-Visions for Change: Recommendations for Effective Policies on Sustainable Lifestyles
Visions for Change: Recommendations for Effective Policies on Sustainable Lifestyles - Country Papers

For more information on UNEP's activities on sustainable lifestyles and follow up activities to the Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles, please visit the Ongoing Projects section. 

Key Findings of the GSSL
According to the 8000 young adults from 20 countries involved in the Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles (GSSL) conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme, young people want to be a force for change and create their own vision of sustainable development. Its results show that young adults from Australia to Vietnam, and Ethiopia to Egypt, consider poverty and environmental degradation to be the world's two biggest challenges, but they want more information on what they can do to be part of the solution. They also need help to understand the combined environmental, economic and social pillars of sustainable development. The survey's results highlight the need to work together to better understand, educate and empower young adults worldwide so they can create their own positive visions of sustainable lifestyles and become involved in change.

"Our aim was to listen to young people's voices from around the world, to hear what they think, their aspirations for the future and reactions to sustainable lifestyles," said Sylvie Lemmet, director of UNEP's Paris-based Division for Technology, Industry and Economics. "We hope that by doing this we can better understand and identify the best strategies to develop effective policies and initiatives for the sustainable lifestyles we will need in the future."

This survey was a joint project developed in the framework of the Marrakech Process on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) by UNEP and the Task Force on Sustainable Lifestyles, led by Sweden from 2005 to 2009. Understanding lifestyles is crucial if we are to solve some of the environmental challenges we face today. A sustainable lifestyle means rethinking our ways of living, how we buy and what we consume every day. It also includes rethinking how we organize our daily lives, altering the way we socialize, exchange, share, educate and build identities. Enabled both by individual actions and efficient infrastructures, sustainable lifestyles play a key role in minimizing the use of natural resources, emissions, waste and pollution while supporting equitable socio-economic development.

The collection and analysis of the survey resulted from a collaborative effort involving an international network of more than 45 organizations, including the International Association of Universities, 28 universities and higher education institutions, research centres and experts, civil society organizations, communications agencies and youth groups. The survey reveals that while young adults are willing to participate and help improve the world they live in, they need to be given more options that they can adapt to their everyday lives for them to contribute to the development of sustainable lifestyles.

Some key conclusions include: 
- Young people want local options that they can include in their daily lives: Asked to react to sustainability scenarios -mobility (car sharing, bicycle centre, car pooling), food (urban gardens, vegetable bag subscription, family take-away) and housekeeping (collective laundry, urban composting, energy management) - most young people choose the bicycle centre, urban gardens and urban composting. This shows the need to have initiatives that are involving but not intrusive, where they can interact and participate at the local level.
- There is a need to build trust and participation: Trust was an issue for many young people; only 30 per cent of those surveyed think their neighbours trust each other. Despite this, many young people actively participate in activities involving others. For instance, in countries like Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Africa, more than 80 per cent of participants have been part of an association in the last 12 months, with the least involved young people living in Egypt, Japan and India. For sustainable lifestyles solutions at the local and community level to be successful, more trust and social links among young people are needed. This will allow cooperation, solidarity and collective creativity to develop, creating the essential environment for sustainable solutions to flourish. Associations, non-governmental organizations and youth groups need to build partnerships with young people to inform them about and engage them in sustainable lifestyles practices.
- Promoting research and education for sustainable lifestyles: For a better understanding of sustainable lifestyles and consumption patterns, more research and education is needed to help in the shift towards sustainable lifestyles. Schools, professional training and awareness raising have an important role to play in building capacities for sustainable lifestyles. Existing initiatives and networks that focus on research and education for sustainable lifestyles should be improved and replicated. This will help advance sustainable lifestyles and create new visions for sustainable lifestyles.

This report is aimed at policy makers and relevant stakeholders, to assist them on how to help support the shift to sustainable lifestyles through effective policies and initiatives, including communication and awareness-raising campaigns. It consists of cross-country conclusions and recommendations as well as 16 country papers, which provide insight into country-specific conditions, culture, economic development and other factors affecting lifestyles.

The 20 countries in the GSSL are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Vietnam.

Some countries involved in the GSSL presented their respective national survey results in 2011 through a variety of events including press conferences and workshops. Visit the GSSL partners' activities page for more information.