Student-Centric Sustainability

Unsustainable Consumption

The word consumption is derived from Latin word consumere which also means use up or waste. To sustain the level of  resources consumed currently by humans translates into requirement of 1.7 earths (Global Footprint Network, 2023). The society has been on the consumption treadmill since late 18th century. Such mindless consumption has created a climate crisis for the homo sapiens. Scientist have been warning us about this consumption induced ecological disaster since last 50 years (The Limits of Growth, 1972; Brundtland Report, 1987). Responsible Consumption and Production are among the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations (2015).

The Literature Review

Growth and Development have three dimensions- economically, ecologically and socially sustainable (Kaul, 2019). Classical economic theories have been prevalent despite their adverse impact on economic, social and environmental outcomes. The new thought process is Wellbeing Economy which advocates equal distribution of wealth as well as opportunities, efficiency in resource allocation and understanding ecological limitations (Coscieme et al., 2019). This means people and planet take priority over profit.

Sustainability Through Mindfulness and Mindful Consumption

Mindfulness is intentionally paying attention in a non-judgemental way (Shapiro, 2006). The role mindfulness in regulating consumption behaviour was brought to the forefront by Brunel and Dong (2006). Mindfulness may be the key factor to shape intentions and behaviours of consumers towards sustainability.

Mindful Consumption (MC) has a relationship with sustainable consumption (Mahmud, Marhana, Muhammad & Azizul, 2019). The term was coined by Jagdish Sheth when he viewed sustainability from the lens of a customer. Caring for self, society and planet is terms as mindful mindset and  reducing acquisitive, repetitive and aspirational consumption was put forth mindful behaviour. Mindful mindset and behaviour together constitute MC (Sheth, Sethia & Srinivas, 2011).  

Student-Centric Sustainability: The Way Forward

It is proposed that mindfulness and MC training should be integrated in higher education for students. Greater awareness, caused by greater attention and acceptance, leads to behavioural change. It works as a circuit-breaker on the autopilot behaviour which helps process internal and external stimuli in a different manner (Siegel, 2007). It helps overcome mindless behaviours and helps turn focus towards new choices, experiences and interpretation of those experiences that mindfulness is learned. It creates a mindful mindset consisting of beliefs, attitude and values through consciousness. The mechanism of reperceiving creates consciousness of thoughts and actions about the consequences of consumption. It develops a sense of caring for others. It makes acceptance easier. Consciousness, caring and acceptance together create an intent of well-being which may encompass not only self but also community and nature. This intent translates into mindful behavior i.e., consumption choices which are more inclined towards sustainability and the experience surrounding these choices is interpreted positively.

Mindful consumption as a way of life embedded into mindset of citizen-consumers of global society is the path towards the well-being of self, society and sphere. Mindfulness in education for sustainable consumption may be the key to achieve this goal (Wamsler, 2020).

By : Prof Amir Shikalgar, Dr Smita Pachare

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