Module code: SOC2068

Module Overview

Consumption is not only essential for survival but is an integral part of everyday life important for individual and group identity, relationships and the performance of social practices. However, the environmental and social consequences of the scale of contemporary consumption cannot be ignored. This module introduces students to a range of theoretical approaches which they apply to understand everyday consumption (of food, clothes, household objects, technology and energy) sociologically. It encourages them to locate their own consumption within its global environmental and social consequences, and to think critically about pathways to more sustainable modes of consumption.

Module provider


Module Leader

BURNINGHAM Kate (Sociology)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 106

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 11

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

 Module content:


Indicative key content themes include:


  • Introduction to sociology of consumption

  • Considering the global environmental, social and wellbeing impacts of contemporary production and consumption

  • Thinking critically about sustainable consumption


Indicative weekly themes which may be amended for each year of study, include:


  • What is everyday consumption and why study it?

  • False needs, emulation and distinction

  • Identity, pleasure and anxiety

  • Ordinary shopping and material culture

  • Consumption as ‘a moment in practice’

  •  A critical sociology of consumption for the 21st century?

  • Global inequalities in consumption

  • Consumption and waste

  • Consumption and wellbeing

  • Green/ethical/sustaible consumption

  • Alternative pathways to more sustainable consumption


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Reflective case study 100

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate that they have met the learning outcomes.


 Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:


  • Coursework (addresses learning outcomes 1,2,3 4,5,6) in the form of a reflective case study which demonstrates students’ ability to: apply key theoretical positions on consumption to understand examples of everyday consumption;to identify and evaluate the environmental and social impacts of the production and consumption of a specific product and to critically evaluate the challenges of moving towards more sustainable consumption

  Formative assessment and feedback

  • Detailed guidance on how to complete the summative assessment will be given in class and on Surrey Learn, and students will be provided with opportunities (both collectively and individually) to ask questions and receive feedback on their developing ideas.

  • Students will prepare for the assessment and receive formative feedback throughout the module through small group tasks focusing on the consumption, impacts and potential sustainability of various products and services.

  • A date will be set for submission of plans for the assessment and each will receive individual written formative feedback within the normal marking turn around period.





Module aims

  • Enable students to critically evaluate sociological approaches to consumption and to apply them to examples of their own everyday consumption
  • Encourage and enable students to consider a range of environmental and social consequences of contemporary consumption
  • Develop students' critical understanding of the concept of sustainable consumption and evaluate alternative pathways towards it

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
002 Students will be able to identify and evaluate environmental impacts and ethical considerations associated with examples of everyday consumption KCPT
003 Students will be able to critically evaluate the challenges of moving towards more sustainable consumption KCPT
004 Students will apply academic reading, writing and referencing skills for studying in higher education T
005 Students will employ digital technologies to select, summarise and present relevant information PT
006 Students will gain experience in communicating in diverse forms PT
001 Students will be able to apply key theoretical positions on consumption to understand examples of everyday consumption KC

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to provide students with an introduction to key themes in the sociology of consumption, an understanding of the impacts of consumption and the concept of sustainable consumption which they can then apply to specific contemporary examples.

Lectures will introduce key concepts and debates with multiple points throughout for individual thought and class discussion. Frequent use will be made of short videos to illustrate ideas and include diverse perspectives.

Seminars provide the opportunity to discuss and deepen understanding and reflection on the material covered in the lectures. They will involve students working in groups on tasks that encourage critical and independent thinking, as well as offering preparation and support for assessments. Activities will take varied forms including discussion of a prior reading or video as well as real world observations and reflective activities on aspects of everyday consumption.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: SOC2068

Other information

The School of Sociology is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills, and capabilities in the following areas:

Employability - Students will develop a range of transferrable skills including critical thinking, reading and writing skills, analysis and evaluation skills, verbal communication skills, and the ability to construct and support a well-evidenced argument.

Digital capabilities - Students will be required to engage with digital information technologies (such as Surrey Learn, Surrey Search, Google Scholar) to access and utilise academic and media sources for class tasks and assignments. The assessment also requires them to conduct independent research online.

Global and cultural capabilities –Throughout this module students are encouraged and equipped to think about consumption within its global context. Specific examples of the consumption of products are situated within the context of their whole global life cycle with attention drawn to issues of inequality in where costs and benefits fall. A specific session is dedicated to thinking about global inequalities in consumption and production and the assessment requires students to research the global impacts associated with consumption of a specific product.

Sustainability – Sustainability is an explicit focus of this module. Students will develop a holistic understanding of sustainability appreciating its environmental, social and economic dimensions and will engage critically with alternative paths to achieve more sustainable consumption. They will build knowledge and understanding of the environmental and ethical impacts associated with consumption of particular products through independent research for the assessment.

Resourcefulness and resilience - Students will be required to independently plan, research and write a reflective report, and build their confidence and engagement through participation in seminar discussions and activities, thus contributing to a supportive learning community. They will develop key foundational academic study skills (alongside those facilitated in other modules) that will help them to navigate and succeed in a higher education environment.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Media and Communication BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Environment and Sustainability BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Criminology and Sociology BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Sociology BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law (Law, Environment and Sustainability Pathway) LLB (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.