Mr Ian Christie

Fellow, CES and Coordinator, Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group

Qualifications: BA (Hons.) Modern Languages, University of Oxford (1979); MA, Contemporary German Studies (political science and sociology), Ealing College of HE (1988)

Phone: Work: 01483 68 9612
Room no: 10 BA 02

Office hours

Mon. - Fri. 9am-6pm most days

Further information


2011 to date: Fellow, CES 

2011-2015: coordinator, Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group (programme led by Prof. Tim Jackson; funded by Defra, Scottish Government and ESRC)

1999-2011: Freelance researcher, advisor, teacher and writer on sustainable development and environmental policy. Projects for central and local government, public agencies, business, NGOs and think-tanks. Part-time policy advisor to ministers and officials on sustainable housing and climate policy, 2006-2008. Associate of Green Alliance think-tank. Visiting professor and lecturer at CES (2005-11). Chair of RESOLVE advisory group at CES, 2007-2010. Trustee of Involve; Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development; Global Action Plan. Advisory committee member for WWF-UK's global and national programmes, 2004-2010. WWF Fellow 2010-2015.

2003-2006: Joint head of sustainability and environment, economy and waste management services at Surrey County Council.

1997-1999: Deputy / acting director of Demos think-tank, London.

1995-1997: Senior consultant / Associate Director, The Henley Centre for Forecasting Ltd, London. Research programme head and lead researcher on environment and consumption. 

1986-1995: Research Fellow / Senior Fellow, Policy Studies Institute, London (now part of University of Westminster). Projects on diffusion and impacts of new technology in industry; energy efficiency; evaluation of Government business support programmes; cleaner production systems in UK industry.

1979-1986: Computer programmer, International Computers Ltd (now Fujitsu UK); technical author and manager of documentation services, K3 Software Services Ltd (now part of IBM UK).

Research Interests

  • Sustainable consumption, lifestyle change and community action for sustainability
  • Ethics of sustainability and environmental action
  • Sustainable development and policymaking
  • Planetary boundaries and governance of SD
  • Religions and environmental values

Research Collaborations

Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group: collaboration with Institute of Fiscal Studies, University of Bath, University of Sussex, Brunel University, University of Edinburgh

Research collaboration with think-tanks in recent years: ScienceWise network (Cabinet Office) on Science Horizons programme on public understanding of science and technology trends and scenarios, 2007; Theos on environmental strategy and vision for the Church of England, 2009; The Futures Company on environmental scenarios for Government departments, Environment Agency and other bodies, 2007-2010


Journal articles

  • Martin G, Clift R, Christie IP. (2016) 'Urban Cultivation and Its Contributions to Sustainability: Nibbles of Food but Oodles of Social Capital'. Sustainability, 8 (5), pp. 409-409.


    The contemporary interest in urban cultivation in the global North as a component of sustainable food production warrants assessment of both its quantitative and qualitative roles. This exploratory study weighs the nutritional, ecological, and social sustainability contributions of urban agriculture by examining three cases—a community garden in the core of New York, a community farm on the edge of London, and an agricultural park on the periphery of San Francisco. Our field analysis of these sites, confirmed by generic estimates, shows very low food outputs relative to the populations of their catchment areas; the great share of urban food will continue to come from multiple foodsheds beyond urban peripheries, often far beyond. Cultivation is a more appropriate designation than agriculture for urban food growing because its sustainability benefits are more social than agronomic or ecological. A major potential benefit lies in enhancing the ecological knowledge of urbanites, including an appreciation of the role that organic food may play in promoting both sustainability and health. This study illustrates how benefits differ according to local conditions, including population density and demographics, operational scale, soil quality, and access to labor and consumers. Recognizing the real benefits, including the promotion of sustainable diets, could enable urban food growing to be developed as a component of regional foodsheds to improve the sustainability and resilience of food supply, and to further the process of public co-production of new forms of urban conviviality and wellbeing.

  • VENN S, BURNINGHAM K, CHRISTIE I, JACKSON T. (2015) 'Consumption junkies or sustainable consumers: considering the grocery shopping practices of those transitioning to retirement'. Ageing and Society,
    [ Status: Accepted ]


    Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015The current generation of older people who are approaching or recently experiencing retirement form part of a unique generational habitus who have experienced a cultural shift into consumerism. These baby boomers are often portrayed as engaging in excessive levels of consumption which are counter to notions of sustainable living and to intergenerational harmony. This paper focuses on an exploration of the mechanisms underpinning the consumption patterns of baby boomers as they retire. We achieve this through an understanding of the everyday practices of grocery shopping which have the potential to give greater clarity to patterns of consumption than the more unusual or ‘extraordinary’ forms of consumption such as global travel. In-depth interviews with 40 older men and women in four locations across England and Scotland were conducted at three points in time across the period of retirement. We suggest that the grocery shopping practices of these older men and women were influenced by two factors: (a) parental values and upbringing leading to the reification of thrift and frugality as virtues, alongside aspirations for self-actualisation such as undertaking global travel, and (b) the influence of household context, and caring roles, on consumption choices. We conclude with some tentative observations concerning the implications of the ways baby boomers consume in terms of increasing calls for people to live in more sustainable ways.

  • Burningham KA, Venn S, Gatersleben B, Christie I, Jackson T. (2014) '’New Motherhood: a moment of change in everyday shopping practices?’'. Young Consumers, 15 (3), pp. 211-226.


    The purpose of this paper is to draw on data from 16 interviews (two each with eight women) to explore some of the ways in which everyday shopping may change as women become mothers. The meanings, practices and implications of the transition to motherhood have long been a topic for sociological inquiry. Recently, interest has turned to the opportunities offered by this transition for the adoption of more sustainable lifestyles. Becoming a mother is likely to lead to changes in a variety of aspects of everyday life such as travel, leisure, cooking and purchase of consumer goods, all of which have environmental implications. The environmental impacts associated with such changes are complex, and positive moves toward more sustainable activities in one sphere may be offset by less environmentally positive changes elsewhere.

  • O'Riordan T, Lenton T, Christie I. (2014) 'Metaphors and Systemic Change'.


    © The British Academy 2013. All rights reserved.Tipping points are metaphors of sudden change, of fear, of falling, of foreboding, and of failure. Tipping points are thresholds of tolerance, of bifurcation, and of transformation which are built into complex systems of transformation. Sudden change can arise from earth system phase changes (for example in the condition of ice, ocean acidity, drying of the tropical forests and the onset of monsoons). But they can also depict rapid shifts in geopolitics, local and regional conflicts, and in economic performance with implications for the well-being of societies all over the globe. The patterns of suddenness and aftermath of physical and socio-economic systems vary greatly. Tipping points can lead to unintended worsening, to induced vulnerabilities, to chaos and confusion in communication, and to the scope for restorative redirection. The scope for benign transformation is an intrinsic aspect of the tipping point metaphor.

  • Christie I. (2014) 'Turning the Tides? Parallel Infrastructures and the Revolt of the Corporate Elites'. Addressing Tipping Points for a Precarious Future,


    © The British Academy 2013. All rights reserved.The forces which impede transformational tipping points are very strong, entrenched and locked in. To overcome these will require polycentric governance, cooperating corporations, alliances between civic and religious groups, and the onset of more autonomous yet accountable local and regional governance. These may form parallel infrastructures of change in corporate ethos and accounting, in the ecological awakening of religions, and in the effective democratization and economic autonomy of local governance.

Book chapters

  • Abbas K, Christie I, Demassieux F, Hayward B, Jackson TD, Pierre F. (2013) 'Sustainable consumption and lifestyles? Children and youth in cities.'. in ISSC , UNESCO (eds.) World social science report 2013: Changing Global Environments


Sustainable Development modules; CSER and ESS modules, CES; environmental ethics, FASS; University of Surrey Global Graduate Award programme on sustainable development 

Society for Sustainable Development: external tutor for Forum for the Future Scholars Master's programme delivered with Middlesex University

Departmental Duties


Academic and research management

Teaching: Sustainable Development; Corporate Responsibility; Environmental Ethics

Sustainable Development modules for MSc courses: SD Foundations and SD Applications

MSc and doctoral supervision


Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), London

Member of : IEMA, International Society for Industrial Ecology, WWF-UK, Green Alliance, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Town and Country Planning Association, International Association for Environmental Ethics

Associate/ affiliate of: Green Alliance; The Futures Company; Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development; Involve

Trustee/advisory group member: Global Action Plan; Telefonica UK Sustainability advisory group; Theos 

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