Fostering Sustainable Consumption in U.S. Cities

Fostering Sustainable Consumption in U.S. Cities led by Professor Judith Layzer (PI) has been awarded an MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative (MIT-ESI) Environmental Research Seed Grants. A total of 59 teams of faculty, research staff, and students responded to the call for proposals, with Prof. Layzer one of nine winners. She will collaborate on this research with faculty including, environmental economist Dr. Frank Ackerman, scientific historian Professor Jennifer Light, and landscape architect and urban designer Professor Alan Berger, as well as Ph.D candidate Lily Pollans.

Through this research, the team seeks to answer the following questions: How and to what extent have U.S. cities made progress towards sustainable consumption? How have the most progressive cities advanced this agenda in practice? What obstacles have they encountered, and how have they overcome those barriers (if they have)? And finally, what prevents other cities from following suit? Although some sustainable consumption practices are taking root among individuals and households, and in some corners of the private sector, this project will focus on how and to what extent government policy at the local level impedes or enables such practices. To address these questions, the team will conduct a large-scale survey of 285 municipalities and counties. In addition to the survey they will also conduct between 12 and 15 in-depth case studies that assess how and to what extent specific factors influence cities’ efforts to promote more sustainable consumption. Ultimately, they plan to offer concrete policy direction to cities, towns, and counties that seek to promote sustainable consumption at the local scale, as well as to be able to describe what kinds of policy action must be taken at larger scales of government. The analysis and policy prescriptions will be disseminated through a highly readable, well-designed report that is freely accessible on the web.

Image credit: Fadi Masoud