Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 177–197 | Cite as

Happiness as a harmonising path for bringing higher education towards sustainability



This paper is a reflection of an innovative project that complements existing higher education for sustainable development (HESD) approaches within universities by providing an alternative path to embed sustainable lifestyles within the student population. It presents the SLEUTH project; an initiative born out of the need to reduce energy consumption of students at university but that, due to its systemic design, transforms and goes beyond purely energy reduction and brings Happiness as an approach to build sustainable lifestyles. This is the distinct feature of this initiative, proposing it as adding value to existing HESD approaches. The paper describes and discusses the collaborative building process, implementation and results in detail. The experiences gathered during the project are used and analysed through ‘participant observation’, ‘documents’, ‘questionnaires’ and ‘theme-ing coding’ techniques as a means to understand the richness and diversity of the data resulting from a combination of formal and informal learning settings. Through empirical evidence, this analysis presents ‘real life’ evidence to suggest, firstly the initiative’s design success, its impact on energy consumption and contribution to happiness and sustainable lifestyles. Secondly, a successful example for the contribution to existing HESD frameworks that move away from indoctrination and instead leans towards pro-activeness, self-organisation and voluntary collective action.


Sustainability Education Sustainable lifestyles Happiness Universities Pro-active citizenship 



Higher education for sustainable development


Education for sustainable development


Sustainable lifestyles–educating universities towards happiness


Decade of education for sustainable development


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Loughborough Design SchoolLoughborough UniversityLeicestershireUK

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