Impacts of changing lifestyles and ecosystem service demands

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam  (The Netherlands)


Socio-economic trends and personal choices shape people’s lifestyles and play a large role in explaining people’s use of ecosystem services. Lifestyle trends in Western societies are driven by emerging values and aspirations, including that of living a greener life. Such aspirations influence preferences regarding food, housing, transportation, or holiday plans, with implications for the use of resources and ecosystem services.

It is unclear how big this role of lifestyle is in explaining ecosystem services use, and what are the consequences on ecosystems far away from the consumer’s location. In an increasingly telecoupled world, there is an increasing need to account for distal impacts of consumption and lifestyle changes, but there are few tools or indicators for doing so.

This research project focuses on key aspects of lifestyles where changes are already being observed in Western societies. Current and alternative lifestyles are translated into differences in consumer demand for key ecosystem services. Particular attention is given to the socio-ecological systems that enable the provision of ecosystem services and the potential impacts on communities living in the service-providing areas. Mismatches between demand and supply of ecosystem services, and trade-offs between global and local impacts of service use, are studied in order to assess the sustainability of current and alternative lifestyles.

A combination of statistical analysis of survey data, global trade databases, land system modelling and ecosystem service modelling is being applied. Visualization techniques to communicate ecosystem service telecoupling to different stakeholders, such as multinationals or governments are being developed.

Expected results are:

  • Insight into the spatial distribution of land-systems supporting Western lifestyles
  • Visual representation of the telecouplings associated with current and alternative Western
  • Insights on governance needs to effectively reduce the impact of Western lifestyles, with
    limited trade-offs between global and local impacts


Perrine Laroche

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Institute for Environmental Studies
De Boelelaan 1087, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“My research in COUPLED aims to advance knowledge about the impacts that people’s attitudes may have on ecological and socioeconomic systems in a telecoupled context.”

Perrine Laroche

Publications …

Laroche, P.C.S.J. , C.J.E.Schulp, T. Kastner, P.H.Verburg (2020). Assessing the contribution of mobility in the European Union to rubber expansion. Ambio.

Laroche, P.C.S.J. , C.J.E.Schulp, T. Kastner, P.H.Verburg (2020). Telecoupled environmental impacts of current and alternative Western diets. Global Environmental Change 62.

Laroche, P.C.S.J. Laroche, C.J.E. Schulp, T. Kastner & P.H. Verburg (2022). The role of holiday styles in shaping the carbon footprint of leisure travel within the European Union. Tourism Management 94:104630.

Policy Brief

P. LAROCHE: Rubber boom and the global and local impacts of personal car use in the European Union

COUPLED Policy Brief, No. 2, June 2021.

Key messages

  • Increasing natural rubber production cannot be done without additional ecological impacts
  • Taking into account various impacts occurring at different levels in policy making will minimize tradeoffs between global and local sustainability
  • Protection of natural ecosystems must be carried out beyond the borders of the EU
  • Cross-cutting policies are needed to mainstream car-free lifestyles in the EU

Read the full Policy Brief (pdf).