Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Zayn Kassam

Reader 2

Richard Hazlett

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© 2014 Katherine M. Barton


This thesis assesses the viability of voluntary simplicity as part of the solution to the material culture that is pushing the planet beyond its carrying capacity without making us happier. Voluntary simplicity is a philosophy and way of life that emphasizes material simplicity, do-it-yourself projects, personal fulfillment, small-scale systems, and spending less time working. Described as “the quiet revolution” and “a life that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich,” voluntary simplicity is at once mainstream and countercultural. Voluntary simplifiers are mainly white, middle class, and well educated, and they come from all types of communities all over the US. Although many voluntary simplifiers hold environmental values, they are primarily motivated by personal concerns such as stress and discontent with the hectic cycle of work and spend. This thesis describes the strong tradition of simplicity in American culture and the philosophy and demographics of voluntary simplifiers. It analyzes voluntary simplicity within the context of the de-growth process society must undergo, and it discusses the class barriers that limit the movement’s wider accessibility.