Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles

Lead organization: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Download: Two documents are available for download: Visions for Change: Recommendations for Effective Policies on Sustainable Lifestyles (2011) and Visions for Change: Recommendations for Effective Policies on Sustainable Lifestyles - Country Papers (2011) 

Summary: The Global Survey targets the young people you will shape our future. Young adults (18-35 years old) from 20 countries, living in urban areas, are asked to examine their current lifestyles. The Survey provides feedback on their perceptions and reactions to visions of sustainable lifestyles.

Objective: To understand how sustainable lifestyles are perceived and shaped by young adults in different societies and cultures around the world

The story:  The project worked through a series of partnerships with organizations, like the International Association of Universities. These were established at international and regional levels, along with universities and student organizations at national and local levels. In addition, business coalitions and entrepreneurial associations in survey countries advertized the project on their websites and sent it to their members.

The survey has four modules:

  1. 'To know you better', builds a respondent profile and identifies the individual's level of environmental awareness
  2. 'Your everyday life', gathers information about young adults' opinions on their lifestyles, present and future
  3. 'Other scenarios', invites commentary on visions of sustainable lifestyles. The nine 'scenarios', developed by design students across the world, include social, institutional and/or technical innovations (e.g. urban gardens, car sharing and farmers markets) that are likely to affect everyday life in a sustainable way.
  4. 'What does it change?' introduces sustainability and sustainable lifestyles into the questionnaire to examine the respondents' perceptions and reactions to them

Outcomes: The project was originally planned to run in six countries. Its expansion to over 20 participating countries and translation into 10 languages is considered a huge success.

Lessons: The survey provides a number of valuable insights for those looking to engage people on sustainable lifestyles:

  • People are most concerned about poverty and the environment Poverty and environmental challenges are identified as the most important global priorities among young adults. "I think we're in a transition period. People are finally aware that they can and must change things from day to day and that has a global impact... if they don't change we'll continue to walk towards a slowdown of the planet." (Portugal, GSSL 2010)

  • People value quality of life and empowerment For all, quality of life and a sense of empowerment are strong aspirations for the future. Unfortunately, sustainability is not always seen as a way to reach these aspirations. "I would like to participate more in community events/local politics. Community meetings, art shows, volunteering at youth clubs and also things like shopping locally and supporting other local business." (Canada, GSSL 2010)

  • Infrastructure changes are needed The scenarios focused on mobility, food and housekeeping. Those surveyed were very clear that well adapted policies and infrastructure were needed to make these scenarios real. "I hope my country will devise plans to be sustainable and independent from the rest of the world." (Lebanon, GSSL 2010)

  • The opportunity to harness passive demand. Passively, people want sustainability solutions. Harnessing this demand is a big opportunity. To do this well, young people need to be empowered and educated on the knowledge and tools they will need to fully participate in the design of sustainable societies.

Contacts:
Ms Fabienne Pierre, United Nations Environment Programme: Fabienne.Pierre@unep.org