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Theses

The Circular Citizens project has spawed two master's theses written in the University of Helsinki.

Please find the abstracts below, as well as options to download the full texts!

Citizens’ skills in the Circular Economy

Mirka Råberg, 2022

Abstract


Circular economy (CE) is often offered as a solution to mitigate climate change and more efficient resource use. However, the socio-cultural side of transformation to CE is widely overlooked in the academic literature (Kirch-herr et al., 2018) and in the context of CE, consumer-citizens are often framed as “consumers”, “users” and in terms of “acceptance” of new products and modes of provision (Hobson & Lynch, 2016). In fact, taking part in CE can be quite laborious and the notion of consumption work highlights the time, skills and access needed to participate in circular consumption (Hobson et al., 2021). Existing research on CE skills are scarce, outdated and focused on only one practice at a time. The research gap of citizens’ CE skills has been identified by sev-eral researchers (e.g. Hobson et al., 2021; Wieser, 2019) and this thesis aims to fulfil the gap by adopting a qualitative approach. The data on which this research is based on, consists of semi-structured interviews with 20 Finnish citizens who have been active in implementing zero waste lifestyles and responsible consumption principles that are relevant for CE.
 

By exploring their everyday practices related to CE, I identify six skill categories that the active citizens utilise to take part in CE. Particularly (1) manual skills were identified by the interviewees as central to performing circular activities. They include skills such as sewing and technical skills that enable repair and repurposing materials. The interviewees possess (2) divergent thinking skills and abilities to think creatively, for example about the ways you can use a certain item. They are also skilful in questioning consumption related social norms. (3) Re-search and communication skills are central for active citizens as they are trying to figure out the most sustaina-ble options and inspire others with humour and positivity to take part in the circular economy. The interviewees describe often utilising (4) organising and prioritising skills that revolve around time management. They need to make decisions and prioritise certain actions that preferably are quite influential in terms of their carbon foot-print. Moreover, when buying products second hand they should start looking for the items early and with rental options, the need should be anticipated and planned. Another identified set of skills are (5) household skills. They include maintenance skills of household goods and clothes, cooking skills to avoid food waste by using creativity and planning as well as recycling skills on sorting different fractions. The respondents also described (6) skills brought by experience. Knowledge on different second hand marketplaces and the skills to recognize good quality on materials and items enable circular practices.
 

One of the main contributions of this thesis is consolidation of various sets of citizen skills relevant for the CE into a single framework. The findings further illustrate that consumer-citizens are doing a multitude of CE activi-ties that require consumption work and certain skills. The findings provide information on how citizens engage and coordinate CE practices on the household level by prioritising and planning, a topic on which research has been lacking (Hobson et al., 2021). The skills of “thinking outside the box” are also a new set of skills that emerged from the interviews and it has a clear connection to the “unlearning” of noncircular consumption prac-tices (Wieser, 2019). The identified skills could be taught more through formal and informal education channels, but it should be considered, how infrastructure, companies and services can ease people’s participation in CE. Findings of the thesis offer insight on the domestic reality of CE and how it could be improved in the Finnish context.
 

Keywords


Circular economy, consumption work, sustainable consumption, citizen skills in circular economy, Zero Waste

The art of caring for textiles - The role of textile-related practices of active citizens in Circular Economy

Satu Wegelius, 2022

Abstract

 

The environmental detriments caused by textiles are multitude and large inscale. Substantial energy use and greenhouse gas emissions occur in the use phase ofthe garment. Using the lens of Consumption Work, this thesis maps the circular practicesof active citizens related to textiles, i.e. clothes and home textiles, as well as theskills and other resources needed for the execution of the practices. The role of thesepractices in Circular Economy is considered through the 3R framework. Based onsemi-structured interviews with 23 active citizens in Finland, a total of 29 circularpractices related to clothes and home textiles were detected. The three most commonpractices among the interviewees were buying second-hand, repairing, and donating.In addition, this thesis contributes to identifying the invisible practices of planning/keeping books of purchases, recognizing materials, and others that are rarelymentioned in connection with Circular Economy. Textile-related circular practiceswere found to require different skills, such as sewing, and information searching, andother resources including time, knowledge, and equipment. For being able to have anduse textiles, people are required to perform Consumption Work consisting of thesetextile-related practices of which some are mandatory, and some (more) voluntary.Citizens are increasingly expected to do Consumption Work with economic value inthe future. This could be enabled e.g. through appearance of versatile second-handshops and online platforms, and inspirational actions of others. In addition, structuralchanges at the state, municipal, and textile industry levels but also at the individualand societal levels are required. Further research is needed e.g. on what motivates peopleto take part in Circular Economy by conducting circular practices on individualand household levels, and how Consumption Work is divided between family membersand genders.


Keywords

 

Circular economy, circular practices, clothes, clothing maintenance, consumptionwork, garments, repair, second-hand, textiles

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