Thesis (1)- How I found my topic

Sustainability is quite a big field and I have been trying to narrow it down and to find the exact spot or direction for myself since the first day of my master program. Renewable energy or CSR? Biochar or urban mining?

Options seem to be limitless. Luckily I have finally learned that I cannot do everything and that I need to have a focus to be great at it. Taking a course on Design thinking last semester really opened my mind to this new way of problem solving. I spent much time trying to find a connection between design thinking and sustainability to make a thesis topic out of it. Despite my effort of preliminary research, talking to professors and much much thinking, I could not reach a satisfactory topic. In times like this, I really do trust my gut feeling. If I am not feeling the “click”, then it’s not the right topic… Continue reading

Low carbon life style-PHD thesis

Last week, I went to David Andersson’s PhD defense on low carbon lifestyles. It’s interesting hearing about five years of work of a person in 2 hours. It’s also refreshing to be taken deep into these seemingly everyday topics in a scientific way. A PhD is indeed a huge commitment to finding some truths about how the world is. Maybe I will do it someday, when I find the topic so personally and professionally important to me.

Anyways, here are some interesting takeaways I got out of the presentation and defense:

  • A good window to meddle with people’s behavior patterns is the time of change (ie moving, having babies, changing jobs and etc) because that is when old routines got disrupted and have space to be reset. That’s a very interesting thing to remember when trying to nudge others into certain behaviors and when one wants to introduce change into his/her own life.
  • Studies into the Gothenburg congestion charges showed that no change of satisfaction of travel was observed and people’s attitude towards it even grew positive overtime. This is so interesting because it indicated that policy makers can be less afraid of introducing such measures to curb carbon emission, as well as to pursue other public good.
  • Studies on residents’ GHG emission revealed that net income has the most impact, which I guess makes sense. GHG emission of developed and developing countries showed the same pattern. However, what’s surprising is how little pro-environmental attitudes makes a difference to it. Time to reflect for environmentalists in developed countries.
  • Materialism was also studied. He found that the much criticized materialism does not have a significant contribution to GHG emissions in terms of status commodity like cars, however more air travel associated with materialism does have an impact. It is interesting and a bit surprising. However, GHG is only one aspect, I am concerned with materialism for its wide range of impact to the environment: pollution, waste and etc.
  • No correlation was found between GHG emission and subjective well being. So there it is, the key to happiness is not so dependent on life standard.

That’s the gist of it. I would suggest people interested in such topics to look into David Andersson’s five papers.

Nudge- vegetarian menu to be default

I was browsing around for inspirations for my thesis work and came across this video about the ISSST conference menu, where vegetarian food was default and meat eaters were accommodated. So simple yet powerful, if only all conferences and events would do this, imagine all the carbon emission and water that could be saved from that.

Chalmers University and Sweden has impressed me with the general level of climate change consciousness, and as a result easy access to great vegan or vegetarian food. Many events, not even necessarily related to sustainability provide vegetarian food, sometimes even as default. I just realized how spoiled I have become recently when I found myself shocked that the non-vegetarian menu of a pub where my friends chose to have a party…