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Sustainability is affected by economics. To the extent that prices are the sole basis of decision-making, decisions may fail to consider the true costs of a product, leading to over-consumption, environmental degradation and human and natural resource exploitation.

The potential of the future is in the collective action of the economic agents in the present. Humans are interconnected and dependent on all the inhabitants of the earth. Our values need to reflect this connection and our economic models have to embed responsible stewardship of the planet.  ~

Madhavi Venkatesan, PhD (Course creator and instructor)

Students in Dr. Venkatesan’s spring 2020 Economics of Sustainability course worked on a research project focused conscious consumption specific to the lifecycle impact of disposable coffee cups. The abstract for the research paper on this project has been accepted for a special issue of Sustainability. The paper will be submitted for peer review and consideration for publication in late August. 16 students are involved in this project and will be listed as contributing authors. Anjali Nair (’20), Astrid Pedersen (’20) and Fenner Dreyfuss-Wells (’23) will be lead authors along with Dr. Venkatesan.

On June 26, the students presented their research at the CANSEE (Canadian Society for Ecological Economics) virtual conference.

© Playthink Live Sketching 2020 (

Abstract This paper is the outcome of a course project for Economics of Sustainability (Northeastern University) where a lifecycle approach to decision-making was incorporated in surveying consumer preferences. Course participants designed a survey where questions and responses were developed to be indicators of behavioral bias. The survey instrument, comprised of 19 questions, was administered individually by class participants and responses were recorded, coded and evaluated.

The consumer good targeted in the survey was convenience-based coffee consumption where convenience was defined by the use of single-use disposable coffee cups. Survey participants were asked a variety of demographic and behavioral questions related to their coffee consumption and were then exposed to environmental impacts resulting from a lifecycle approach to convenience coffee consumption. Following their exposure to this information, additional questions were asked to evaluate if and how education may contribute to future choices.

The survey and methods are provided and the study as described is a replicable exercise that legitimizes the significance of education to promote sustainability. However, a single point in time evaluation and dissemination of information are not likely to be sufficient to promote long-term behavioral change.

The paper concludes with a discussion of stakeholder involvement and suggested next steps. Keywords: economics, sustainability, bounded rationality, lifecycle assessmentSustainability (link):



Taunton residents struggle as the unemployment rate hits 21.1%
Dr. Madhavi Venkatesan is quoted in this Taunton Gazette article on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy and sustainability.