Professor Stewart Barr
Director of Education and Professor of Geography


Research interests

Stewart’s research focuses on the ways in which publics engage with contemporary environmental dilemmas such as climate change and ‘Peak Oil’. In so doing, his research speaks to a range of inter-disciplinary audiences through publication in Geography and Environmental Social Science journals and the authorship of research monographs. In particular, his research aims to advance new agendas in both theoretical and applied contexts, with a recent focus on impact generation activities through business engagement. There are three broad strands to Stewart’s research:

First, Stewart’s research aims to provide a contextually rich and spatially situated understanding of environmental practices and how these have emerged and continue to evolve in an age of climate change and other major global environmental dilemmas like ‘Peak Oil’. In so doing, Stewart’s research calls for inter-disciplinary understandings of how social practices are both evolving in the light of ‘mega-issues’ like climate change and the ways in which consumption-heavy lifestyles may be brought into conflict with calls to reduce consumption as a way of averting catastrophic climate change. This is framed through explorations of various practices, including those related to energy use, water, waste and most recently mobilities.

Second, Stewart’s research also focuses on building critiques of existing Neo-liberal approaches to so-called ‘behavioural change’ as an individualistic mechanism for dealing with challenges such as climate change. This is undertaken within the context of research on ‘citizen-consumers’, who have been crafted as the primary agents for dealing with environmental dilemmas through the use of market mechanisms. Accordingly, his research argues for a re-assessment of such individualistic approaches, calling for a renewed focus on changing the contexts for civil action on environmental issues.

Third, Stewart’s research has a pragmatic and impact-generation strand which builds on these broad policy critiques through focusing on the efficacy of current market mechanisms for pro-environmental behavioural change in the UK (e.g. the use of Nudge Theory and Social Marketing). This research is designed to apply the ideas outlined in the previous two strands as a way of helping organisations in the public and private sectors to design and implement successful behavioural change campaigns that focus on the contexts and underlying practices for collective action through the use of social media.

Research projects

Unpacking the Household: understanding the dynamics of domestic recycling. Coca Cola Enterprises (with G. Shaw)

Dr. Stewart Barr, with Dr. Annabelle Boulay and Dr. Alan Metcalfe

This is a research project funded by Coca Cola Enterprises (value: £146,000) and aims to study household dynamics as they relate to practices of recycling and wasting of food and drinks packaging. Attention in the project is being paid to the attitudes and practices of one particular group, ‘Green Casuals’, within two national contexts, the UK and France. The focus is not just on the point at which packaging is disposed of to the residual or recycling bin, but also on the ways in which such packaging moves through the household from the point of purchase to final disposal. Understanding household dynamics thus offers an opportunity to explore with households their waste-related practices and the interaction with the wider waste regime. Through this, policy suggestions will be developed to help increase recycling amongst members of this group.

The objectives are:

  • To plot the ways in which materials (including PET, cans and packaging) enter and move through ‘Green Casual’ households and therefore relate to the everyday lives of participants in the research;
  • To unpack the processes of negotiation and ‘decision making’ within households in regard to recycling and waste practices.

The research will be based on four sets of in-depth interviews with household members. These interviews will be supported by the use of participant waste diaries, object-elicitation, and photography. In addition the final interview will be an ethnographic interview.

Waste Diaries: Participants will be asked to complete a diary by listing and/or narrating the materials disposed of, the decisions, and household members who were involved. This will be explored in the interviews where fuller accounts can be drawn out.

Object Elicitation: Drawing on objects found in the domestic sphere to give specificity to interviews, to enable participants to tell specific narratives and explain how specific events occurred and so on.

Ethnographic Interviews: An interview undertaken during a particular event so that the interviewee can explain exactly what is happening, reflect on decisions, relate to previous and typical events, and the interviewer can pick up on barely noticed or reflected on actions.

Further information can be found here:


Recent selected awards:

November 2012   
Unpacking the Household: understanding the dynamics of domestic recycling.
Coca Cola Enterprises (with G. Shaw)

July 2011   
Sustainable and Integrated Urban Water Management System (SANITAS) (with D Butler et al.)
EU Marie-Curie ITN

July 2011
Social Marketing for Sustainability: developing a community of practice for co-creating behavioural change campaigns.
ESRC Grant (with G. Shaw and A. Gilg)

February 2011
Tourism, Travel and Social Marketing: a scoping study.
ESRC Business Voucher (with G. Shaw)

November 2010
The Role of Values in Responding to Major Social Change: Christian Churches and the Transition Town Movement.
AHRC Grant (with T. Gorringe)

April 2009
Lifestyles and life-courses: the social context of waste management.
Leverhulme Trust (With G. Robinson, et al.)


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