Sustainable Consumption Research Group
Unit(s) of assessment: Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Research theme: Sustainable Futures
School: School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment
Sustainable Consumption is a multidisciplinary research group that focuses on people's influence on sustainability as users of products and services, ranging from consumer durables and clothing. Members apply theoretical and practical knowledge from design and related disciplines to environmental and social sustainability, often integrating expertise in design with research frameworks drawn from the social sciences.
The group is based in the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment but works closely with sustainability experts across the University.
In the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Nottingham Trent University was ranked 4th in the world for Responsible Consumption and Production. The ranking measures universities’ research on responsible consumption and their approach to the sustainable use of resources.
Staff are active in the following areas of research:
- product lifetimes of consumer durables (e.g. vehicles, electrical and electronic goods, furniture etc.) and semi durables (e.g. clothing)
- sustainable design and consumer/user behaviour
- innovative business models
- sustainability and marketing
- the repair and maintenance of consumer goods
- reuse and upcycling
- social innovation, collaborative consumption and social practices
- sustainable materials and supply chains
- product-service systems
- craft-based practices
- human-powered products
- interdisciplinary practices and pedagogy.
We welcome applications to undertake a higher degree by research leading to the award of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Master of Philosophy (MPhil). Further information is available via email from the Doctoral School.
Staff collaborate with a range of other universities. For example, the EPSRC-funded Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIE-MAP) was a partnership between Nottingham Trent University, Bath University, Cardiff University and Leeds University. The PLATE (Product Lifetimes and the Environment) conference series is managed by NTU in collaboration with the University of Delft (Netherlands), Aalto University (Finland) and Sheffield Hallam University (UK).
The Centre works with a range of industry partners, government departments (e.g. Defra), charities (e.g. WRAP) and networks (e.g. RREUSE, the Reuse Network). Recent projects have involved collaboration with manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment, vehicles, clothing and furniture.
Areas in which members of the research group can offer skills and expertise are detailed below:
Product lifetimes in theory and practice
- Product durability and longevity
- Reuse and second-hand markets
- Product quality
- Product lifetime expectations
Sustainable consumption and production
- The circular economy and slowing material cycles
- Consumption and the symbolic / functional value of goods
- Ethical consumption
- Consumer / user behaviour
- Innovative business models
- Sustainable supply chains
- Systems of use and the product-service mix
Design and Technology
- Sustainable product design / eco-design / environmental design
- User-centred design
- Sustainable innovation
- Design and social change
Energy, Materials and Products
- Measuring environmental impacts / embodied energy
- Sustainable materials consumption
- Repair and maintenance
- Self-powered products
- Product standards and planned obsolescence
- Environmental labelling
- Waste prevention
- Green fiscal reform
Professor Tim Cooper worked as an economist in industry prior to posts at the New Economics Foundation and Sheffield Hallam University. For the past twenty years he has undertaken multidisciplinary research on issues relating to product lifetimes, embracing sustainable design, consumer behaviour, public policy, and environmental values. He is editor of Longer Lasting Products (Routledge, 2010) and initiated the biennial PLATE (Product Lifetimes and the Environment) conferences. His research has been funded by the European Commission, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Defra and WRAP, and has included collaborative projects with industry in the clothing and electronic goods sectors.
- Professor Tom Fisher
- Dr Alex Hiller
- Professor Anthony Kent
- Professor David Ong
- Dr Miriam Sang-ah Park
- Professor David Smith
- Dr Roy Stratton
- Dr Matthew Watkins
- Dr Yang Wei
- Katie Furmston
- Dr Joe Stewart
- Patrick Keen
- Tung Minh Dao
- Deepti Mahajan
Publications by members of the Sustainable Consumption Research Group are too numerous to list here and may be found by clicking above on the names of individual members of the group. The group periodically holds events such as the climate change showcase, below.
Climate Change Showcase, December 2015
- Professor Tim Cooper - Too much stuff: the impact of consumerism on climate change.
- Dr. Amanda Smith - Urban energy transitions to low carbon futures: the case of Nottingham.
- Dr. Lynn Oxborrow and Angharad McLaren - From Future Factory to clothing longevity.
- Toby Tonkin - Monitoring environmental change with unmanned aerial vehicles: a case study from a high-Arctic glacier.
- Carlos Abrahams - Extreme events and freshwater ecology.
- Dr. Naomi Braithwaite - Turning waste into value: a Circular Economy approach to climate change mitigation.
- Dr. Petra Molthan-Hill - Preparing for the climate change summit - insights from the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative.
- Dr. Marianna Poberezhskaya - Communication and climate change: case study of Russia.
- Dr. Mofakkarul Islam - Determinants of the uptake of renewable energy generation practices on UK farms.
- Professor Amin Al-Habaibeh - The use of infrared thermography for the assessment of a bulding's insulation and energy performance.
- Dr. Ben Taylor - Media technologies and e-waste.
- Dr. Christine Cole - Climate change and the repair, reuse culture.
- Dr. Jillian Labadz - Upland management for the reduction of carbon losses from peatlands.
- Dr. Roy Smith - Existential threats and opportunities for the low lying atoll states of the Pacific.
- Centre for Industrial Materials, Energy and Products (CIE-MAP), RCUK/EPSRC, 2013-18
- Dirt, damage, servicing and repair: understanding motivations for product disposal, Defra, 2014-15
- The potential role of collaborative consumption tools and practices in helping people increase the useful life of products, Defra, 2012-13
- Understanding opportunities to increase reuse and repair, WRAP, 2011-12
- Network on Product Life-Spans, EPSRC, 2004-08
Clothing sustainability projects are listed here.
Peer Review - Project grants
Reviewer, European Commission, Horizon 2020 project Interim Report, PROMPT (Premature Obsolescence Multi-Stakeholder Product Testing Program), 2021.
Reviewer, Swiss National Science Foundation, Humanities and Social Sciences Division, 2019-20.
Reviewer and panel member, Research Council of Norway, 2019.
External examiner (PhD)
2021 UCLouvain (Université Catholique de Louvain) (Belgium)
2020 Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands)
2019 Aalto University (Finland)
2019 Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (the Netherlands)
Conference advisory board member
Committee member, International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes (IFFTI) conference, April 2022.
Adviser and Series Chair, Product Lifetimes and the Environment (PLATE) Conference, Limerick/Online, May 2021.
Programme Committee member, 2nd International Conference on Energy and Sustainable Futures (ICESF), September 2020.
Adviser and Series Chair, Product Lifetimes and the Environment (PLATE) Conference, Berlin, September 2019.
Award panel member
2020 Judging Panel member, Ecosurety Exploration Fund
2020 Invited participant, Expert Workshops, EU Commission Study on empowering consumers in the green transition, 16 September and 6 October.
2019-20 Provided Oral and Written Evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into the Electronic Waste and the Circular Economy (Oral evidence April 2020, Written evidence September 2019).
2019 Invited participant, WRAP, Textiles Sector Post-2020 Voluntary Agreement workshop, May.
2019 Invited seminar presenter, European Commission DG Justice and Consumers, Shaping Future EU Consumer Policy, Brussels, 7th March.
Sponsors and collaborators
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Recent book chapters
Cooper, T. (2020) Slower Cycles: An essential characteristic of the circular economy. In: Eisenriegler, S. (ed.) The Circular Economy in the European Union: An interim review. Springer, pp. 99-116.
Cooper, T., Shapley, M. and Cole, C. (2020) Mobile Phones in a Circular Economy. In: Ling, R., Fortunati, L., Goggin, G., Lim, S.S. and Li, Y. Oxford Handbook of Mobile Communication and Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cooper, T. and Salvia, G. (2018) Fix It: Barriers to repair and opportunities for change. In: Crocker, R. and Chiveralls, K. (eds.), Subverting Consumerism: Reuse in an Accelerated World, Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 147-165.
Recent journal papers
Sung, K., Cooper, T., Oehlmann, J., Singh, J. and Mont, O. (2020) Multi-Stakeholder Perspectives on Scaling up UK Fashion Upcycling Businesses, Fashion Practice 12(3), 331-350. DOI: 10.1080/17569370.2019.1701398
Goworek, H., Oxborrow. L, Claxton, S., McLaren, A., Cooper. T., and Hill. H. (2020) Managing sustainability in the fashion business: Evaluating challenges in product development for clothing longevity in the UK. Journal of Business Research 117, 629-641. DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2018.07.021
Singh, J., Sung, K., Cooper, T., West, K. and Mont, O. (2019) Challenges and opportunities for scaling up upcycling businesses – the case of textile and wood upcycling businesses in the UK. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 150 (2019) 104439. DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2019.104439
Sung, K., Cooper, T. and Kettley, S. (2019) Developing Interventions for Scaling Up Upcycling in the UK. Energies 12(14), 2778. DOI: 10.3390/en12142778
Cole, C., Gnanapragasam, A., Cooper, T. and Singh, J. (2019) Assessing barriers to reuse of electrical and electronic equipment, a UK perspective. Resources, Conservation and Recycling: X,1, June 2019, 100004. Online. DOI: 10.1016/j.rcrx.2019.100004
Harmer, L., Cooper T., Fisher T., Salvia, G., and Barr C. (2019) Design, Dirt and Disposal: Influences on the maintenance of vacuum cleaners. Journal of Cleaner Production 228, 1176-1186. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.04.101
Singh, J., Cooper, T., Cole, C., Gnanapragasam, A., and Shapley, M. (2019) Evaluating approaches to resource management in consumer product sectors: An overview of global practices, Journal of Cleaner Production 224, 218-237. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.03.203
Cole, C., Gnanapragasam, A., Cooper, T. and Singh, J. (2019) An assessment of achievements of the WEEE Directive in promoting movement up the waste hierarchy: experiences in the UK, Waste Management 87, 417-427. DOI: 10.1016/j.wasman.2019.01.046
Sung, K., Cooper, T. and Kettley, S. (2019) Factors Influencing Upcycling for UK Makers, Sustainability 11(3), 870. DOI: 10.3390/su11030870