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  Factor of Ten - A Future Worth Having ANU home


The convenience of our daily lives is possible because of the combined resources and efforts of many people and places. From our comfortable local situation it can be hard to imagine why we need to reduce energy and material consumption now with future generations and distant people in mind. Scientists are now suggesting, however, that if we are to protect and enhance quality of life for all people and all time we need to reduce our impact on the natural world tenfold. This could mean learning how to do more with less, or recognising that quality of life is about far more than consumption.

What kind of technological and cultural changes are required? What would these changes mean for peoples’ everyday lives? Would different consumption choices make people any more — or less — happy?

Factor of Ten explores these issues, engaging people both emotionally and intellectually in the quest for a sustainable future. The project brings together scientists, musicians, visual artists and creative writers to present ideas about the environment — and explore how people might create a future worth having.


Everyday items have an associated environmental impact stretching far beyond the obvious. Australian grain exports, for example, are effectively exporting precious topsoil. Producing a loaf of bread consumes 2 kilograms of topsoil. Gold for an average ring typically requires the movement and disposal of many tonnes of earth and rock. The making of a car generates about 15 tonnes of solid waste. Even a litre of orange juice involves the transfer of 100 kilograms of soil and water.

The ‘efficiency revolution’ required for sustainability can be achieved through changes in design, technology and consumption decisions. Possible changes include adopting biologically-inspired production models (e.g. close the loop), developing more energy- and materially- efficient technology (e.g. cars which run on renewable energy or which are recyclable), and making different choices (e.g. the type of food we choose to eat).

For more on the science and concepts behind Factor of Ten, see the background paper produced by Michael Smith, Francis Elliot and Stephen Still.