Exploring the links between subjective wellbeing and low carbon mobility practices


  • Lea de Fremont Universite Gustave Eiffel


Low carbon mobility, subjective wellbeing, lifestyle, transport modes




In the context of climate emergency, it is crucial to reduce human mobility’s carbon footprint. Sustainable mobility (Banister, 2008) is essentially made of less trips, modal shift and less distance. Taking subjective experiences into account is needed to promote sustainable mobility while attempting to improve subjective wellbeing (SWB).

SWB has two dimensions. In the hedonic dimension wellbeing is made of experiences of happiness based upon the satisfaction of preferences (Ryan & Deci, 2001). This is itself made up of three elements : the presence of positive feelings, the absence of negative feelings and overall satisfaction with life. On the other hand, the eudaimonic dimension of well-being is related to the meaning of one’s life and their personal growth. In particular, it can be linked to environmental mastery, autonomy and competence (Ryan & Deci, 2001). Previous research has conceptualised the relationship between travel and SWB (De Vos et al., 2013) and showed various quantitative evidence of their links although determining the direction of causality remains a challenge (Mokhtarian, 2019).

We believe qualitative research is needed to better understand the links between mobility and the various components of SWB. This communication proposes a qualitative exploration of SWB within low carbon mobility. We understand low carbon mobility as both car-free mobility and mobility with moderate car use (in terms of distance travelled and frequency of use). According to a social practice theory perspective, low carbon mobility is viewed as a system supported by material elements, meanings and competence. Our aim is both to study low carbon mobility practices and to understand some of the conditions under which they can contribute to the hedonic and eudaimonic dimensions of wellbeing.

Following Hitchings’ (2012) claim that individuals can talk about their practices, our analysis is based on interviews with low carbon mobility individuals. Interviews included a wide range of topics (a biographical mobility overview, daily and occasional mobility, experiences and representation related to mobility). To help participants talk about their routines they were asked to fill in a weekly planner that was used during the discussion.

Interviews were conducted in France in Paris region and Nantes metropolitan area (one of the 10 most populated French cities). Both urban areas have a well-developed transport system with different level of coverage according to their scale. Drawing on these two geographical contexts, we will focus in particular in the role of urban and transport features in supporting low carbon practices and their contribution to subjective wellbeing.


Banister, D. (2008). The sustainable mobility paradigm. Transport Policy, 15(2), 73‑80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tranpol.2007.10.005

De Vos, J., Schwanen, T., Van Acker, V., & Witlox, F. (2013). Travel and Subjective Well-Being: A Focus on Findings, Methods and Future Research Needs. Transport Reviews, 33(4), 421‑442. https://doi.org/10.1080/01441647.2013.815665

Hitchings, R. (2012). People can talk about their practices. Area, 44(1), 61‑67. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01060.x

Mokhtarian, P. L. (2019). Subjective well-being and travel: Retrospect and prospect. Transportation, 46(2), 493‑513. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11116-018-9935-y

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On Happiness and Human Potentials: A Review of Research on Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 141‑166.