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Critical design to identify norms in the sustainability discourse

Critical design to identify norms in the sustainability discourse

What is a “sustainable life” and for whom is the “sustainable life” sustainable? These questions guide the research project “Critical design to identify norms in the sustainability discourse” where design is used as a process to understand and challenge existing norms surrounding the concept of sustainability and sustainable lifestyles.

The project is implemented by KTH – Royal Institute of Technology and Konstfack, University of Arts, Crafts and Design with funding from the Swedish Energy Agency.

Action in response to the climate crisis

Lately, the debate about sustainability and the demand for more action in the response to the climate crisis has received attention in the public debate. People are gathering to make common cause to advocate for sustainable transformations of everyday life and the society at large in pursuit of a more sustainable future.

The question of who bares the responsibility to facilitate a sustainable change is actualized and one common understanding is that the individual has a responsibility to live sustainably in accordance with sustainable lifestyles.

Sustainable lifestyles in practice

Many of these lifestyles are articulated as the individual’s ability to make informed consumer decisions about cost, travel and mobility, decisions that both require time and economic resources. As a reaction to the emergence of different “sustainable lifestyles” we ask the question of whether these lifestyles really are sustainable – and for whom.

Norm Criticism and design

Using a critical approach to design and the study of societal norms, this project analyses narratives about what it means to live sustainable lives. En normkritisk designansatts fungerar som motor för ett kreativt gestaltnings-drivet utforskande och idégenererande.



Project group

The project is run at KTH – Royal Institute of Technology, through Green Leap, where a group of researchers work making use of each other’s design and social sciences competences when they do sustainability research. Besides Global Challenge (“Global Utmaning”, in Swedish), the following organisations are involved: