Sustainable Practices


Sustainable Practices (Shove and Spurling, 2013) is a key contribution to debates on sustainable consumption and theories of practice. An edited book exploring how social theories of practice can offer understandings of sustainable societal transition, and what that might involve. Contributors to the book are from a range of disciplines (including sociology, geography and philosophy) and are all alike in taking social theories of practice as a starting point. Rather than framing social change as the outcome of individual choice or external social and economic forces, theories of practice bring new questions into view: “…how are practices defined and how do they change? What are the material elements of which practices are composed? How do practices circulate and travel, and how do they relate to each other? How can we understand power within systems of practice, and how and by whom are matters of value, including interpretations of well-being and sustainability, reproduced and contested?” (Shove and Spurling, 2013:3). It is these questions that the book explores.


Sam Kelly and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Sustainable Mobility Policies as interventions in practices This project (with Andy McMeekin, University of Manchester) used desk based research to review sustainable mobility policies in England. The research re-frames issues of sustainable mobility by drawing on a framework developed in our SPRG Report (Spurling et al 2013). The chapter makes an important distinction between direct and indirect sustainable mobility policies, highlighting that planning policy can have implications for overall mobility demand. Our approach both reconceptualizes conventional intervention strategies, and brings to the foreground prospects of shifting patterns of demand for alternative modes, and also for changing the overall demand for mobility itself.


My most recent thinking on these issues is outlined in the DEMANDing Ideas working paper below. In this I argue that to unpick the question of how theories of practice can inform policy we need to take a step back and think through the relationship between theory, empirical research and policy per se. I set out an in-progress framework which identifies several of these theory-research-policy relationships: framing problems, conceptualising policy in social change, producing new kinds of data, policy evaluation, and suggest that theories of practice have mainly focussed on the first of these.


Working paper
Spurling, N. (2014) The relationship between (practice) theory and policy intervention, first presented at The Behaviour-Practice Debate in Sustainable Consumption, Nottingham Trent University, 22 May 2014. Revised version presented at DEMANDing Ideas, read here >>

Edited Book
Shove, E. and Spurling, N. (Eds) (2013) Sustainable Practices: Social theory and climate change, London:Routledge

Book chapters
Spurling, N. and McMeekin, A. (2015) Interventions in Practices: Sustainable mobility policies in England, in Yolande Strengers and Cecily Maller (eds) Social Practices, Interventions and Sustainability: Beyond Behaviour Change, Routledge.

Shove, E. and Spurling, N. (2013) Sustainable Practice in Shove, E. and Spurling N. (Eds) Sustainable Practices: Social theory and climate change, London:Routledge.

Spurling, N. and Shove, E. (2013) Policy works in surprising ways: sustainability and practices, Engaging Sociology, BSA annual conference, Grand Connaught Rooms, London, 3-5 April 2013. BSApolicysurprises

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