Hedonistic deconsumption and upcycling: active, emotional and pleasurable engagement with waste

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O'Rourke, Grace
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University College Cork
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A global environmental crisis and climate emergency have been declared. The planet cannot sustain current levels of resource depletion and waste production. To address this emergency, it is critical that we understand how sustainable consumption can become more widespread. Previous sustainable consumption research has directed attention towards passive or arduous forms of sustainable consumption (e.g. recycling), however, alternative practices such as freeganism, dumpster diving, and upcycling in particular, show emotional engagement with waste is evident, but underexplored. Alternative practices, and their apparent emotional and expressive nature, could hold the potential for a more widespread, celebrated culture of sustainable consumption as they hold attractive consumption characteristics. To gain an understanding of the pleasurable reasons to engage with sustainable consumption, and specifically upcycling, hedonism was used as a lens for this study. To understand the intricacies of the active, emotional and pleasurable nature of upcycling, a longitudinal immersive study was required. A blended-ethnography, consisting of traditional ethnographic data collection, supported by netnography (to understand online support networks) and visual ethnography (to understand object meanings), was required to capture the hands-on nature of the upcycling process. This study found that the elicitation of positive emotions plays a central role in the upcycling process. A conceptual framework illustrating the upcycling experience was developed, contributing to the ongoing research in the field of sustainable consumption. In practice, this study proposes that the facilitation of hedonistic deconsumption has the potential to contribute to degrowth strategies, and act as a desirable stepping stone towards a cleaner environment.
Sustainable consumption , Environmental sustainability , Hedonism , Deconsumption , Upcycling
O'Rourke, G. 2019. Hedonistic deconsumption and upcycling: active, emotional and pleasurable engagement with waste. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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