Our Research

1. The Simple Living Survey

The Simplicity Institute’s current multi-national research project is to provide the most extensive sociological examination of those individuals and communities around the world who are voluntarily embracing ‘post-consumerist’ lifestyles of reduced or restrained income and consumption.

Directed toward the affluent societies of the developed world, it is our governing hypothesis that such post-consumerist lifestyles will be a necessary part of any transition to a sustainable, just, and flourishing human society. Accordingly, gaining some insight into who these individuals and communities are, how they are living, and what prospects they have for bringing about significant cultural and structural change, is a matter of the utmost importance.

“It is our governing hypothesis that such post-consumerist lifestyles will be a necessary part of any transition to a sustainable, just, and flourishing human society”

Furthermore, by developing an understanding of the challenges people face when embracing post-consumerist lifestyles, we will be better able to develop policy proposals for the purpose of facilitating the transition to a world of sustainable consumption.

Our primary method of data collection will be through an online survey. If you are someone who is voluntarily living a lifestyle of reduced or restrained income and consumption, then please fill out our short ‘simple living’ survey today (and go into the draw to win a collection of the finest literature on the theory and practice of simple living). It will only take a few minutes to fill out and you will be contributing to one of the most important research projects currently being undertaken in the world today. We need your help.

To fill out the short survey, please click here.

Our preliminary research paper based on this survey (which is on-going) is available here.

2. Peak Oil, Energy Descent, and the Fate of Consumerism

The Simplicity Institute’s second research project at present is to explore the lifestyle implications of ‘peak oil.’ (For an introduction to peak oil, click here). Western-style consumer lifestyles are highly resource and energy intensive. We are examining the energy intensity of these consumer lifestyles and considering whether such lifestyles could be sustained in a future with declining energy supplies and much higher energy prices.

Although energy supply issues have the very real potential to cause unprecedented human suffering, our position is that, if handled wisely, the forced transition away from energy-intensive consumer lifestyles (whether due to peak oil, climate change, or broader resource constraints) could actually lead humanity down a more meaningful, just, and sustainable path, such that we should want to choose this path even if it were not to be forced upon us in coming decades.

Our first working paper on this subject can be downloaded here.

3. Overcoming Barriers to Sustainable Consumption

The Simplicity Institute’s third research project explores how consumer societies are structurally set up to oppose practices of sustainable consumption and how those structural obstacles could be overcome.

Our lifestyle decisions, especially our consumption decisions, are not made in a vacuum. Instead, they are made within social, economic, and political structures of constraint, and those structures make some lifestyle decisions easy or necessary and other lifestyle decisions difficult or impossible. Change the social, economic, and political structures, however, and different consumption practices would or could emerge. With a practical focus, this research examines the extent to which people in consumer societies are ‘locked in’ to high consumption, energy-intensive lifestyles, and it explores ways that structural changes could facilitate a societal transition to practices of more sustainable consumption.

Our first working paper on this subject can be downloaded here.

4. The Simpler Way: A Practical Action Plan for Living More on Less

The Simplicity Institute, in collaboration with Ted Trainer, has also launched a practice-based resource called the Simpler Way Project. By now we all realise the importance of reducing resource and energy consumption and stepping more lightly on the planet, but figuring out how to do this in a consumer society can be very challenging. The Simpler Way Project is dedicated to providing the most comprehensive, practical guide to living ‘simpler lives’ of reduced and restrained consumption.