Consumers in the Circular Economy: Essays on Extending Product Lifecycles

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles

Abstract

This dissertation sheds light on how a better understanding of consumer practices during product use can help us make consumption more sustainable. The role of consumers in circular economy models has been underexplored and marginalized. The discussion on product circularity is often framed around production and design, where consumers are treated as passive users of circular offerings. Instead, this dissertation elaborates on how consumers can have active roles in the circular economy by extending product lifecycles through maintenance. In this dissertation, I build on the cyclical view of consumption that looks at consumption through acquisition, usage, and disposal. The dissertation focuses on the usage phase of the cycle. To escape the traps of the previous attitude-behavior studies focusing on the individual consumer's attitudes and behavior, this dissertation draws from a more holistic view taking macro, meso, and micro perspectives into account. The research draws on practice theory and analyzes the different practice elements and their configurations. By taking a macro perspective, the findings of the dissertation elaborate on institutional regulations, market resources and social structures shaping practices during product use. Through a more micro and meso perspective, the findings bring new understanding to how consumers participate in lengthening product life spans and how they keep products part of their practices through product maintenance. The dissertation is comprised of three interlinked essays that draw from a longitudinal ethnographic study exploring consumption practices through a sustainable perspective. The study context focuses on leisure boating in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. The context of leisure boating around the Baltic Sea provided an excellent context to study sustainable consumption practices due to the extensive use of unsustainable, environmentally destructive boat hull paints during maintenance practices.
Translated title of the contributionConsumers in the Circular Economy - Essays on Extending Product Lifecycles
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Weijo, Henri, Supervising Professor
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8884-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8885-3
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Keywords

  • circular economy
  • sustainable consumption
  • practice theory

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