Sustainable technologies, practices and places

Reflecting the high social demand, research in this thematic area focuses on the introduction of new energy and environmental technologies and solutions in homes and local government.

The theoretical perspectives include technological transitions and the role of the consumer, the social construction of new markets, as well as political economy, the spread of technology in social networks and the domestication of technology.

Research and commentary concentrate on the steering of sustainable consumption and the role of the consumer in environmental policy. This research emphasises the relationship between individuals and society as well as the role of consumption in the management of natural resources. The theoretical perspectives include the problems of methodological individualism in the management of natural resources as well as, in the area of political studies, discussion of policy evaluation, adaptive policies and evidence-based policies.

Research explores the living environment, particularly housing and services, as well as food and eating, from the perspectives of consumer wellbeing and sustainable consumption. The theoretical frameworks include theoretical discussions of consumer behaviour, urban planning and geography of retailing.

We focus on the key social-scientific issue of the relationship between structure and agent. The first field of research reflects on the creation of new structures, the second field problematizes the role of the individual in resolving environmental issues, and the third field considers how locality produces and changes structures.

Selected publications

  • Rinkinen, J., Shove, E. & Marsden, G. (2020, Spring) Conceptualising demand: A distinctive approach to consumption and practice. Routledge: London.
  • Rinkinen, J., Shove, E., & Torriti, J. (2019). Energy fables: challenging ideas in the energy sector. Routledge.
  • Rinkinen, J., Shove, E., & Smits, M. (2019). Cold chains in Hanoi and Bangkok: Changing systems of provision and practice. Journal of Consumer Culture, 19 (3), 379-397.
  • Shove, E. & Trentmann, F. (Eds.) (2018). Infrastructures in Practice. The Dynamics of Demand in Networked Societies. Routledge.…
  • Niva, M., & Jallinoja, P. (2018). Taking a Stand through Food Choices? Characteristics of Political Food Consumption and Consumers in Finland. Ecological Economics, 154, 349-360.
  • Apajalahti, E-L. (2018). Large energy companies in transition – From gatekeepers to bridge builders. Aalto University publication series. Doctoral dissertations 112/2018.
  • Trentmann, F. (2018). Getting to grips with energy: fuel, materiality and daily life. Science Museum Group Journal 09.
  • Heiskanen, E., Apajalahti, E. L., Matschoss, K., & Lovio, R. (2018). Incumbent energy companies navigating the energy transitions: Strategic action or bricolage?. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions.
  • Heiskanen, E., Laakso, S., Matschoss, K., Backhaus, J., Goggins, G. & Vadovics, E. (2018). Designing Real-World Laboratories for the Reduction of Residential Energy Use. Articulating Theories of Change.
GAIA, 27(S1), 60–67.…
  • Trentmann, F. & Carlsson-Hyslop, A. (2017). The evolution of energy demand in Britain: politics, daily life, and public housing, 1920s–1970s. The Historical Journal 61(3), 807-839.…
  • Martiskainen, M., Heiskanen, E., & Speciale, G. (2017). Community energy initiatives to alleviate fuel poverty: the material politics of Energy Cafés. Local Environment, 23(1), 20-35.
  • Laakso, S. (2017). A practice approach to experimental governance. Experiences from the intersection of everyday life and local experiments. Doctoral dissertation. Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki.
  • Heiskanen, E., Hyvönen, K., Laakso, S., Laitila, P., Matschoss, K., & Mikkonen, I. (2017). Adoption and Use of Low-Carbon Technologies: Lessons from 100 Finnish Pilot Studies, Field Experiments and Demonstrations. Sustainability, 9(5), 847.
  • Heiskanen, E., Nissilä, H., & Tainio, P. (2017). Promoting residential renewable energy via peer-to-peer learning. Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 16(2), 105-116.
  • Heiskanen, E., Jalas, M., Juntunen, J. K., & Nissilä, H. (2017). Small streams, diverse sources: Who invests in renewable energy in Finland during the financial downturn?. Energy Policy, 106, 191-200.
  • Apajalahti, E-L., Temmes, A. & Lempiälä, T. (2017). Incumbent organisations shaping emerging technological fields: Cases of solar photovoltaic and electric vehicle charging. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 30, 44–57. Koistinen K., Honkanen K., Peura-Kapanen L. & Poikolainen J. (2017) Asumisen arvostukset ja paikkaan kiinnittyminen - Asuinaluekokemuksia Espoosta ja Lahdesta. Yhdyskuntasuunnittelu 2017; 55 (1): 33–51.
  • Koistinen, K., & Järvinen, R. (2016). Comparing perceived insecurity among customers and retail staff during service encounters. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 31, 80-92.
  • Mäkelä, J. & Niva, M. (2016). Citizens and sustainable culinary culture. In: Paloviita, A. & Järvelä, M. (Eds.). Climate Change Adaptation and Food Supply Chain Management. Routledge, 172–182.…
  • Matschoss, K., Kahma, N., & Heiskanen, E. (2015). Pioneering customers as change agents for new energy efficiency services—an empirical study in the Finnish electricity markets. Energy Efficiency, 8(5), 827-843.


  • Eva Heiskanen, Ph.D. (Phil.), Adjunct professor, Professor
  • Katri Koistinen, Ph.D. (econ. geography), University Lecturer
  • Kaisa Matschoss, Ph.D. (Soc.Sc.), Adjunct professor, University researcher
  • Jenny Rinkinen, Ph.D. (Econ. & B.A.), Postdoctoral researcher
  • Frank Trentmann, Ph.D (History), Professor

Recent projects under the thematic area

EE-TRANS, 2018–2022. Eating and energy use reconfigured? Disruptions and novel transition pathways in food and energy systems. In order to develop the current understanding of reconfigurations required for altering the patterns of production and consumption, this research project brings together sociotechnical transition and practice theories and connects them in a novel way with the analysis of institutional disruptions. The consortium analyses two transitions-in-the-making: the reduction of meat consumption for a more sustainable food system and the development of technologies for a fossil-free energy system. EE-TRANS analyses the emerging transitions in these two systems, and aims to develop middle-range concepts in understanding how consumption and production are or can be reconfigured or disrupted for sustainability transitions.

ENERGISE is a pan-European research initiative to achieve a greater scientific understanding of the social and cultural influences on energy consumption. Funded under the EU Horizon 2020 programme for three years (2016-2019), ENERGISE develops, tests and assesses options for a bottom-up transformation of energy use in households and communities across Europe. Our team at the University of Helsinki is leading work package 3, Designing Living Labs. (