Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Jane Olmsted (Director), Kristi Branham, Ann Ferrell

Degree Program

Department of Diversity & Community Studies

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Sustainability is a buzzword covering a variety of fields and subjects. For the purposes of my research sustainability is “the ability to keep going over the long haul. As a value, it refers to giving equal weight in your decisions to the future as well as the present” (Gilman 1). The sustainability movement refers to activists, educators and researchers who are dedicated to finding high quality ways of living in the world that are environmentally benign for all who are now living as well future generations to come (Gilman 1). This research focuses on three women who engage in voluntary simplicity— “simplicity that is voluntary-consciously chosen, deliberate, and intentional- [and] supports a higher quality of life” (Elgin 4). The complexity of the subject of sustainability is why I chose to narrow my focus to such a worldview and because much of my educational background is in Gender and Women’s Studies I specifically focus on women. Feminist ethnographic methods of participant observation are utilized as well as rhetorical analysis. I examine the attentive roles that have afforded these women the ability to form intimate social as well as ecological relations in their community. The observations are recorded in a narrative form and contribute to the growing knowledge base of sustainability as well as resilience studies. The lack of sustainable practices on a large scale in our country affects every citizen who lives here through environmental problems like climate change and peak oil. The narrative form allows the research I have collected to maintain an accessible language which is important in reaching a greater audience beyond that of academia. The narrative shows easy, manageable sustainable choices and changes that can be applied at the micro as well as macro level. These choices and changes are not exhaustive or all inclusive; rather they are suggestions for those who are interested in joining the sustainability movement.


Behavioral Economics | Community-Based Research | Nature and Society Relations | Women's Studies