We often focus on the built environment as a solution space for reducing energy and materials demand; however, equally important is the consumption characteristics of the people who live in these built environments that we call cities.
While it is true that the built environment influences the size of a person’s home and whether one owns a motor vehicle. It is also true that socio-economic and socio-cultural factors also play a role. For example, if you live in Hong Kong or London, chances are you live in an apartment and do not need a car because everything is relatively close by. Moreover, if you live in a culture that values the automobile, you may choose to own one even though you live in a city where it is not needed.
My favourite example of socio-economic and cultural values overriding built form is the capital city Male in the Maldives. Male is a flat island, only two square kilometers in area. It is a virtual beacon of ecocity development in that it is home to almost 120,000 people, that historically lived without cars or any form of motorized transportation. Until circa 1985, walking and cycling were the only modes of transportation in this car-free city. However, influenced by the perceived prestige of car ownership, the streets of Male were actually widened, most notably at intersections, to allow for the importation of motor vehicles, despite a 100% fuel surcharge and 200% import duty. The president of the country set the tone by driving two blocks from his residence to the parliament. While the majority of vehicles on the island today are scooters, the odd luxury car or four-by-four vehicle can also be spotted. (Recall this is a small, flat, densely populated island?) All this to say that socio-cultural values do matter a great deal.
Therefore, I think much can be learned from connecting lifestyle archetypes to ecocity indicators. A lifestyle comprises habitual behaviours, values and beliefs coupled with political, economic and geographic conditions that together establish a framework for living. An archetype is an original pattern or prototype. Combined, the phrase lifestyle archetype refers to a pattern of living that serves as a prototype.
I am interested in patterns of living that inform ecocity conditions.
To learn more, I surveyed the way people live in cities and countries that fall within the parameters of ecological sustainability, using the ecological footprint as a guide. Where people’s lifestyles stayed within global ecological carrying capacity, I looked at what lifestyle characteristics they shared in common. To read the results visit: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/7/4/4747/htm. This link will take you to an open access journal article that includes some interesting tables on what consumption patterns align with ecocity conditions where one-plant living, i.e., living within global ecological carrying capacity, is the goal.