How can we know which lifestyles are sustainable? How can we make our lifestyles sustainable? How can designers contribute to sustainable lifestyles? Michael Lettenmeier’s doctoral thesis provides answers to these questions.
M.Sc.(Agric.) Michael Lettenmeier will defence his dissertation A sustainable level of material footprint — Benchmark for designing one-planet lifestyles on Friday 25 May 2018. The discussion will be in English.
Opponent: PhD, Prof. Tim Cooper, Nottingham Trent University
Custos: prof. Sampsa Hyysalo, Aalto University Department of Design
Lettenmeier’s thesis A sustainable level of material footprint — Benchmark for designing one-planet lifestyles
- determines a sustainable level of material footprint for household consumption,
- shows how households can use this benchmark to develop their lifestyles towards sustainability, and
- makes suggestions on how designers can promote sustainable lifestyles.
Lettenmeier’s thesis shows how households have used the benchmark for one-planet lifestyles: With a material footprint of eight tonnes there would be enough natural resources for every human on our planet to live a sustainable life. Eight tonnes of material footprint is only 20% of the current Finnish average. If all people in the world lived a Finnish lifestyle, we would thus require the natural resources of five planets.
By applying the 8 tonnes benchmark, households were able to cut their Lifestyle Material Footprint by tens of percent when redesigning their lifestyles. The thesis shows what a sustainable lifestyle could look like and how the Lifestyle Material Footprint can help detect the critical factors behind our unsustainable lifestyles. Lettenmeier and his research teams have developed the material footprint into a tool for designing one-planet lifestyles and supporting solutions. The households that participated in the research regarded the eight tonnes material footprint an understandable benchmark. They were able to redesign their daily routines on its basis. The participants of the first pilot were able to reduce their material footprint by 25–54 per cent in the short term.
Lifestyles affect households’ material footprints
The material footprint of households is mostly affected by how we move around, how and where we live, and what we eat. We will be eating, living and moving also in the future but this will happen smarter in terms of natural resources. Yet, a sustainable material footprint will not be achieved by means of households solely. Households have to be supported by supply, design and planning, as well as politics.
For example, new oat-based products replacing meat and milk products help consumers drop the material footprint of nutrition from the present six to a future three tonnes. In addition, there are new houses entering the market that provide comfortable living on less square meters than today. This supports sustainable housing. Also new solutions in energy production and consumption, such as wind power and heat pumps, help lighten lifestyle material footprints. One-planet mobility is promoted, for instance, by applications offering mobility as a service. They can help reduce car-dependency, which is one key issue in eight tonnes lifestyles.
A design framework for pursuing eight tonnes lifestyles
In order to increase products, services, infrastructures and communication supporting eight tonnes lifestyles, Lettenmeier’s thesis has developed an orientation framework for Design for One Planet (Df1P). The framework provides numerous examples for sustainable nutrition, housing and mobility solutions to be developed by product design, service design, infrastructure planning and communication design. The more technologies and infrastructure can be combined with lifestyle changes, the more diverse and individual options for sustainable lifestyles we’ll have in the future.
The Df1P orientation framework in intended to inspire designers and planners to acknowledge in their work the boundaries our only planet is setting, and to help them concentrate on the relevant issues for sustainable consumption. Lettenmeier hopes that his thesis helps designers and planners understand and gain ownership of the tremendous opportunities they have in promoting sustainable lifestyles.
The dissertation notice and the published dissertation are placed for public display at the Learning Hub Arabia (Hämeentie 135 C, 5th floor, room 570), at latest 10 days before the defence date.