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‘Balancing sustainability and lifestyle’: An interview with Rosa Strube

Raising our quality of life in a sustainable way. That’s what Rosa Strube wants to achieve with her work. A discussion about sustainable concepts, the link between lifestyles and resource conservation, different international approaches to sustainability – and the difficulties of balancing our desire to travel against environmental protection.

Rosa Strube has been a project manager with the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP) in Wuppertal since 2009. Her job involves her in projects on sustainable cities and logistics for, among others, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). She is contributing to the Hands-on Project on Alumniportal’s focus topic ‘Sustainable living’ as a jury member and moderator of two webinars.

Ms Strube, what does a sustainable lifestyle mean for you personally?

Rosa Strube: For me it means constantly rethinking and adjusting my everyday activities. More specifically, to ensure my eating, consumption, mobility and living habits are, in the fullest sense, ecologically and socially compatible.

CSCP: Active on four continents

You work with the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP). What are this centre’s tasks and objectives?

Rosa Strube: We want to improve quality of life around the world, while at the same time reducing adverse ecological and social impacts. And we want to help actively overcome unsustainable trends in the economy and society through the use of technical, organisational and social innovation – and through the collective commitment of all the groups involved.

To this end, we carry out academic studies in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. We develop visions for the future and advise politicians and enterprises. We network different actors and transfer knowledge. In this way, as a link between research and practice, we make sure that existing potentials for sustainable consumption and production methods are in fact used.

Sustainability has many facets

On the subject of ‘living sustainably’, are there differences between the different continents?

Rosa Strube: To begin with, it is clear that the issues of lifestyle and consumption are now taken very seriously in all regions. The differences arise, however, in the specific questions posed in order to achieving sustainable lifestyles.

What does that really mean?

Rosa Strube: Since people’s consumption of resources is usually strongly dependent on their level of affluence, for rich societies with Western lifestyles we need to find solutions that reduce that consumption. It’s different in poorer regions, where the typical lifestyle has rather lower ecological and social impacts. Here, the question is about how to achieve a higher living standard – while using approaches that consume fewer resources than western models.

However, because of the current economic crisis affecting a lot of European countries, as well as the growing middle class in many newly industrialised countries, these distinctions are becoming increasingly blurred.

Gaining time by living sustainably

What is it you like about your work?

Rosa Strube: The thing I appreciate about working for CSCP is that we are one of the few organisations highlighting sustainability from a lifestyle point of view. I’m also firmly convinced that, by emphasising solutions and new ideas for alternative approaches, and by collaborating with diverse groups from business, politics, research and civil society, our strategy is the best way to make real headway.

What do you do, personally, in order to live sustainably?

Rosa Strube: I largely stick to a vegetarian diet, and eat seasonal foods as far as possible. I’ve made the conscious decision not to own a car. I go by bike instead, or use buses and trains. That also gives me more time to use productively. Apart from that, I use a green electricity provider, I have an account with an ethical bank, and that kind of thing.

However, I do sometimes find it difficult to balance my desire to travel and visit friends in different countries with a low-resource lifestyle. But I also test innovative ideas for myself, such the communal use of different objects, ordering vegetable boxes or trying out apps that help me to behave more sustainably.

September 2015

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