Emerging Social Movements for Sustainability: Understanding and Scaling Up Upcycling in the UK

  • Kyungeun Sung
  • Tim Cooper
  • Sarah Kettley


Social movements have campaigned for environmental sustainability, most notably in relation to sustainable food production and climate change. Past research on these social movements has paid attention mainly to the relatively well-organised and established initiatives. Less attention has been paid to emerging collective actions by citizens. This chapter therefore aims to provide analyses of one such case, the upcycling movement in the UK, and considers its potential implications. The contributions to knowledge made through research in design for sustainable behaviour, upcycling, and sustainability science are outlined. Challenges for upscaling the upcycling movement are discussed, and further challenges concerning sustainability are raised.


Scaling up Social movements Sustainability Upcycling Waste 



This work was funded by Nottingham Trent University with support from the RCUK Energy Programme’s funding for the Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products, grant reference EP/N022645/1. Data collection activities were partly funded by Design Research Society.


  1. Albinsson, P.A., and B. Yasanthi Perera. 2012. Alternative Marketplaces in the 21st Century: Building Community Through Sharing Events. Journal of Consumer Behaviour 11 (4): 303–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alkon, A.H. 2008. From Value to Values: Sustainable Consumption at Farmers Markets. Agriculture and Human Values 25 (4): 487–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alkon, A.H., and C.G. McCullen. 2011. Whiteness and Farmers Markets: Performances, Perpetuations… Contestations? Antipode 43 (4): 937–959.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Allwood, J.M., M.F. Ashby, T.G. Gutowski, and E. Worrell. 2011. Material Efficiency: A White Paper. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 55 (3): 362–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Anderson, C. 2012. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. London: Random House Business.Google Scholar
  6. Bailey, I., R. Hopkins, and G. Wilson. 2010. Some Things Old, Some Things New: The Spatial Representations and Politics of Change of the Peak Oil Relocalisation Movement. Geoforum 41 (4): 595–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barriball, K.L., and A. While. 1994. Collecting Data Using a Semi-structured Interview: A Discussion Paper. Journal of Advanced Nursing 19 (2): 328–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bhamra, T., and D. Lilley. 2015. Introduction, IJSE Special Issue: Design for Sustainable Behaviour. International Journal of Sustainable Engineering 8 (3): 146–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blühdorn, I. 2006. Self-experience in the Theme Park of Radical Action? Social Movements and Political Articulation in the Late-modern Condition. European Journal of Social Theory 9 (1): 23–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boggs, C. 1989. Social Movements and Political Power: Emerging Forms of Radicalism in The West. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bosco, F.J. 2001. Place, Space, Networks, and the Sustainability of Collective Action: The Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Global Networks 1 (4): 307–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bramston, D., and N. Maycroft. 2013. Designing with Waste. In Materials Experience: Fundamentals of Materials and Design, ed. E. Karana, O. Pedgley, and V. Rognoli, 123–133. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar
  13. Braun, V., and V. Clarke. 2006. Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology 3 (2): 77–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Brulle, R.J. 2000. Agency, Democracy, and Nature: The US Environmental Movement from a Critical Theory Perspective. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Bryman, A. 2012. Social Research Methods. 4th ed. New York: Oxford university press.Google Scholar
  16. Carruthers, D., and P. Rodriguez. 2009. Mapuche Protest, Environmental Conflict and Social Movement Linkage in Chile. Third World Quarterly 30 (4): 743–760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carty, V., and J. Onyett. 2006. Protest, Cyberactivism and New Social Movements: The Reemergence of the Peace Movement Post 9/11. Social Movement Studies 5 (3): 229–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. CIE-MAP. 2015. About CIE-MAP.
  19. Connors, P., and P. McDonald. 2010. Transitioning Communities: Community, Participation and the Transition Town Movement. Community Development Journal 46 (4): 558–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cooper, T., ed. 2010. Longer Lasting Products. Routledge: Abingdon.Google Scholar
  21. De Molina, M.G. 2013. Agroecology and Politics. How to Get Sustainability? About the Necessity for Political Agroecology. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems 37 (1): 45–59.Google Scholar
  22. Demaria, F., F. Schneider, F. Sekulova, and J. Martinez-Alier. 2013. What Is Degrowth? From an Activist Slogan to a Social Movement. Environmental Values 22 (2): 191–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Escobar, A. 1998. Whose Knowledge, Whose Nature? Biodiversity, Conservation, and the Political Ecology of Social Movements. Journal of Political Ecology 5 (1): 53–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. EUED. 2015. What Is EUED?
  25. Fink, A. 2012. How to Conduct Surveys: A Step-By-Step Guide. 5th ed. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  26. Ford, L.H. 2003. Challenging Global Environmental Governance: Social Movement Agency and Global Civil Society. Global Environmental Politics 3 (2): 120–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Friedman, A.L., and S. Miles. 2001. Socially Responsible Investment and Corporate Social and Environmental Reporting in the UK: An Exploratory Study. The British Accounting Review 33 (4): 523–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gagnon, M., G. Godin, C. Gagné, J. Fortin, L. Lamothe, D. Reinharz, and A. Cloutier. 2003. An Adaptation of the Theory of Interpersonal Behaviour to the Study of Telemedicine Adoption by Physicians. International Journal of Medical Informatics 71 (2): 103–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gagnon, M., E. Sánchez, and J. Pons. 2006. From Recommendation to Action: Psychosocial Factors Influencing Physician Intention to Use Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Recommendations. Implementation Science 1 (8): 5908–5901.Google Scholar
  30. Grugel, J. 2002. Democracy Without Borders: Transnationalisation and Conditionality in New Democracies. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Hargreaves, A. 2002. Sustainability of Educational Change: The Role of Social Geographies. Journal of Educational Change 3 (3–4): 189–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hassanein, N. 2003. Practicing Food Democracy: A Pragmatic Politics of Transformation. Journal of Rural Studies 19 (1): 77–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Haxeltine, A., and G. Seyfang. 2009. Transitions for the People: Theory and Practice of ‘Transition’ and ‘Resilience’ in The UK’s Transition Movement, Working Paper 134. Norwich: Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.Google Scholar
  34. Jackson, T. 2005. Motivating Sustainable Consumption: A Review of Evidence on Consumer Behaviour and Behavioural Change, Report for Sustainable Development Research Network, University of Surrey: Centre for Environmental Strategy.Google Scholar
  35. Kajikawa, Y. 2008. Research Core and Framework of Sustainability Science. Sustainability Science 3 (2): 215–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Keck, M.E., and K. Sikkink. 2014. Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. London: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Kousis, M. 2000. Tourism and the Environment: A Social Movements Perspective. Annals of Tourism Research 27 (2): 468–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Krippendorf, K. 2005. The Semantic Turn: A New Foundation for Design. Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lang, D. 2013. Zero to Maker: Learn (Just Enough) to Make (Just About) Anything. Sebastopol: Maker Media.Google Scholar
  40. Lockie, S. 2004. Collective Agency, Non-human Causality and Environmental Social Movements: A Case Study of the Australian ‘Landcare Movement’. Journal of Sociology 40 (1): 41–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Luke, T.W. 2005. Neither Sustainable Nor Development: Reconsidering Sustainability in Development. Sustainable Development 13 (4): 228–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lynch, C. 1998. Social Movements and the Problem of Globalization. Alternatives 23 (2): 149–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Martiskainen, M. 2007. Affecting Consumer Behaviour on Energy Demand (Report). Brighton: Sussex Energy Group.Google Scholar
  44. McLaren, A. 2017. Decorative Darning.
  45. Melucci, A. 1985. The Symbolic Challenge of Contemporary Movements. Social Research 52 (4): 789–816.Google Scholar
  46. ———. 1996. Challenging Codes: Collective Action in the Information Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Morgan, K. 2009. Feeding the City: The Challenge of Urban Food Planning. International Planning Studies 14 (4): 341–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. North, P. 2011. The Politics of Climate Activism in the UK: A Social Movement Analysis. Environment and Planning A 43 (7): 1581–1598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pallant, J. 2013. SPSS Survival Manual. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education.Google Scholar
  50. Pietrykowski, B. 2004. You Are what You Eat: The Social Economy of the Slow Food Movement. Review of Social Economy 62 (3): 307–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pink, S. 2008. Sense and Sustainability: The Case of the Slow City Movement. Local Environment 13 (2): 95–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rajagopal, B. 2000. From Resistance to Renewal: The Third World, Social Movements, and the Expansion of International Institutions. Harvard International Law Journal 41 (2): 529–578.Google Scholar
  53. Reason, P., and H. Bradbury. 2001. Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  54. Robson, C. 2011. Real World Research: A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner Researchers. 3rd ed. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  55. Sbicca, J. 2012. Growing Food Justice by Planting an Anti-oppression Foundation: Opportunities and Obstacles for a Budding Social Movement. Agriculture and Human Values 29 (4): 455–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Schneider, F., G. Kallis, and J. Martinez-Alier. 2010. Crisis or Opportunity? Economic Degrowth for Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability. Introduction to this Special Issue. Journal of Cleaner Production 18 (6): 511–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Smith, A. 2011. The Transition Town Network: A Review of Current Evolutions and Renaissance. Social Movement Studies 10 (1): 99–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Smith, A., M. Fressoli, and H. Thomas. 2014. Grassroots Innovation Movements: Challenges and Contributions. Journal of Cleaner Production 63: 114–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Snow, D.A., L.A. Zurcher Jr., and S. Ekland-Olson. 1980. Social Networks and Social Movements: A Microstructural Approach to Differential Recruitment. American Sociological Review 45 (5): 787–801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Spencer, B. 1995. Old and New Social Movements as Learning Sites: Greening Labor Unions and Unionizing the Greens. Adult Education Quarterly 46 (1): 31–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Starr, A. 2010. Local Food: A Social Movement? Cultural Studies? Critical Methodologies 10 (6): 479–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sung, K. 2017. Sustainable Production and Consumption by Upcycling: Understanding and Scaling Up Niche Environmentally Significant Behaviour. PhD thesis, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham.Google Scholar
  63. Sung, K., and T. Cooper. 2015. Sarah Turner–Eco-artist and Designer Through Craft-based Upcycling. Craft Research 6 (1): 113–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sung, K., T. Cooper, and S. Kettley. 2014. Individual Upcycling Practice: Exploring the Possible Determinants of Upcycling Based on a Literature Review. In Sustainable Innovation 2014 Conference, Copenhagen, 237–244. Farnham: The Centre for Sustainable Design.Google Scholar
  65. Taylor, V., and L. Rupp. 2002. Loving Internationalism: The Emotion Culture of Transnational Women’s Organizations, 1888–1945. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 7 (2): 141–158.Google Scholar
  66. Toke, D. 2011. Ecological Modernisation, Social Movements and Renewable Energy. Environmental Politics 20 (1): 60–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Tovey, H. 1997. Food, Environmentalism and Rural Sociology: On the Organic Farming Movement in Ireland. Sociologia Ruralis 37 (1): 21–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Triandis, H.C. 1977. Interpersonal Behavior. Monterey: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  69. UK Hackspace Foundation. 2015. UK Hackspace Foundation.
  70. Van den Bosch, S.J.M. 2010. Transition Experiments: Exploring Societal Changes Towards Sustainability. PhD thesis, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam.Google Scholar
  71. Wheeler, S.M. 2000. Planning for Metropolitan Sustainability. Journal of Planning Education and Research 20 (2): 133–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Yin, R.K. 2013. Case Study Research: Design and Methods. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  73. Zhuo, C., and Y.A. Levendis. 2014. Upcycling Waste Plastics into Carbon Nanomaterials: A Review. Journal of Applied Polymer Science 131 (4): 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyungeun Sung
    • 1
  • Tim Cooper
    • 2
  • Sarah Kettley
    • 3
  1. 1.De Montfort UniversityLeicesterUK
  2. 2.Nottingham Trent UniversityNottinghamUK
  3. 3.Edinburgh College of ArtEdinburghUK

Personalised recommendations