The Sustainable Living Project at OSU: A Values Approach to Intelligent Consumer Decisions

Viviane Simon-Brown
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“The long and short of the matter is that forest conservation depends in part on intelligent consumption, as well as intelligent production of lumber.”
~ Aldo Leopold, 1928, “The Home Builder Conserves”

In a 1995 national telephone survey by the Merck Family Fund, that 67 % of the respondents acknowledged that “Americans cause many of the world’s environmental problems because we consume more resources and produce more waste than anyone else in the world.” And 88% of Americans agreed “protecting the environment will require most of us to make major changes in the way we live. But the same survey showed that Americans really don’t know what the specific ecological implications of their lifestyles are, and don’t know precisely what to change.

At Oregon State University and other land-grant institutions, we focus our educational efforts on teaching students to professionally manage natural resources. However, as population, economic and consumption pressures increase, helping consumers take a thoughtful approach to understanding their cultural, economic and environmental ethics and addressing their responsibilities as consumers of natural resources, become viable educational tools.

Since 1998, the Sustainable Living Project at OSU has been offering off-campus programming on intelligent consumption to typical American adults and older youth. Intelligent consumption is about managing ourselves. It is based on personal values, ethics and beliefs that underlie decision-making. Considering the barriers to living sustainably, examining national trends, and determining personal priorities are components of educating the public about their consumer choices.

Over 5,000 people have participated in workshops, and 500,000 browsers have visited the website. Since the Sustainable Living model is based on values and beliefs systems, it is readily adaptable to different audiences and cultures.

Keywords: sustainable living, intelligent consumption, ethics-based education
Stream: Environmental Sustainability
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Sustainable Living Project at OSU, The

Viviane Simon-Brown

Sustainable Living Coordinator, Extension Forestry,
College of Forestry, Oregon State University


Extension and research interests: Integrating three aspects of the human dimensions of natural resources sustainability: Sustainable living education to help individuals and families make intelligent, thoughtful quality of life and consumer choices about natural resources; Public engagement to better understand the public's natural resource values and beliefs systems; and Collaborative public processes that move people from conflict and promote direct and meaningful natural resources decision-making.

Ref: S06P0229