Abstract for: Sustainability Transitions: Can we Leave it to the Lifestyle Choices of the Young Generations?

To deal with unprecedented sustainability challenges—from the climate crisis, pollution, biodiversity loss and the overconsumption of natural resources, much attention has gone to supply-side solutions. Yet, at the core of a rapid and large-scale societal transformation that staves off disaster lie fundamentally-altered and lifestyle-changing consumption choices and practices among the population. The main aim of this paper is to develop a research direction that helps better understand dynamics of transformations towards sustainable consumption practices. To generate more specific insights I develop a stylized model characterizing some basic aspects of the processes and conditions for lifestyle transformations. Aspects include interactions with the supply side (investment choices capital supporting sustainable lifestyles) and age-related population differences—in particular in terms of citizens’ willingness to change lifestyles and their control over relevant capital investment choices. I find that whereas successful sustainability transformations hinges on sustainable lifestyle choices by the youth, stimulating this is not a high-leverage strategy by itself. Perhaps the most effective supplementing strategy involves granting the youth earlier control over the relevant capital investment choices. More generally findings stress the low leverage impacts of single-pronged approaches that stimulate either solely supply- or demand-related interventions. I lay out promising areas for further research.