Definition of Sustainable Lifestyles

4 ladies sitting around table

What is meant by sustainable lifestyles?

Whereas definitions of sustainable consumption and production focus primarily on resource management and usage, technological advancements and new markets, the concept of sustainable lifestyles is broader and more inclusive, taking into consideration the multifaceted aspects of cultural norms and traditions, individual and community growth and well-being.

Lifestyles are the way people (groups and individuals) live their lives – what they do, why, with whom, where, how and what they use to do it. This includes everything from the food they eat and how they interact with others, to the way they get around. Lifestyles define a person or a group’s identity; how values, aspirations, social positions, religion, psychological and political preferences are expressed.

Creating sustainable lifestyles means changing ways of living—how people act towards others and towards themselves, how they organize their daily lives and what and how they consume. It is about preserving valuable traditions as well as finding new solutions that enable societies to live in harmony with each other and in balance with the natural environment. Lifestyles choices and actions we take can either contribute to sustainable development or not, but understanding the dynamics and challenges related to identifying sustainable lifestyle practices is complex. They are both systemic and personal, both immediate and long-term. They are rooted in the diverse cultural realities, ways of being and world-views that exist at regional, national and local levels. The transition to sustainable lifestyles requires revising the present manner in which resources are used and distributed and reorienting development to focus on the health and well-being of people and the planet, while ensuring that the poor also attain a decent living with access to basic services and essentials.


Education for sustainable lifestyles

As awareness has grown of the interrelatedness of consumption and other pressing issues such as non-communicable diseases, social unrest, personal debt, etc., the concept of education for sustainable consumption has evolved, broadened and is most often now referred to as education for sustainable lifestyles (ESL). Thus, education for sustainable lifestyles is an element of ESD and builds on ESC. ESL promotes understanding of the complex relations between lifestyles and sustainability, involves reflecting on one’s priorities (material and non-material) in life, and attempts to motivate social change leading to sustainable development, peace and justice for all.

Education for sustainable lifestyles is an integral part of the 10-Year Framework of Programs on Sustainable Lifestyles and Education. It is a vital part of education for responsible living.