Inner sustainability: exploring experiences of needs, satisfaction, and frustration in sustainable lifestyle practices




Melnik, Anna

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Sustainable development and sustainable living, a key pursuit of our times, must be premised on human well-being in order to be truly sustainable. Although many have speculated on the possible interaction between sustainable lifestyle practices and the well-being, or satisfaction, of practitioners, there has been limited empirical study of this connection. The purpose of this study was to explore how people experience satisfaction and frustration in conjunction with the practice of a sustainable lifestyle. Semi-structured interviews were completed with six sustainable lifestyle practitioners associated with Transition Victoria, a community resilience initiative in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Interview transcripts were synthesized into explanatory narratives highlighting experienced outcomes of a sustainable lifestyle practice. A further thematic analysis was completed to identify themes to which participants attributed meaning and potential satisfaction. The results of this analysis were interpreted to draw conclusions about the sorts of satisfying and frustrating experiences that were related to sustainable lifestyle practices for these participants. Results of the study revealed twenty-six salient themes of important, potentially satisfying phenomena anticipated and experienced by participants. These included needs for food, shelter, transportation, money, health, well-being, relationships, connection, communication, support, recognition, legitimacy, effectiveness, autonomy, action, enjoyment, knowledge, interest, nature, meaning, and identity, and also needs to pursue certain values. Various actions, relationships, and contexts constituting sustainable lifestyles had implications for both satisfying and frustrating essential needs for security, belonging, esteem, competence, knowledge, creativity, leisure, and autonomy. In addition, the pursuit of a sustainable lifestyle was related to the need for and satisfaction of meaning. The results of this study suggest that, for this small group of participants, sustainable lifestyles hold multiple opportunities for satisfaction and frustration of various needs. Groups wanting to support sustainable lifestyle practitioners might consider ways to maximize opportunities for satisfaction and meaning, and minimize sources of frustration. It is recommended to conduct further research with a larger sample of participants, to extend these findings to more general conclusions about human experiences with sustainable living.



sustainable lifestyles, needs satisfaction, qualitative analysis