Resource depletion remains central to human economic activity with resulting negative consequences for the local and global environment. Material and energy consumption patterns are also increasing globally, as developing countries follow the trail blazed by more industrialized countries. Consumers play a role in shifting towards more sustainable forms of consumption. However, consumer-oriented public-policy measures are often restricted to informational campaigns based on moral and price arguments. A multidisciplinary approach to sustainable consumption must go beyond this limited vision of consumers if transitions toward more environmentally friendly consumption patterns are to be made possible. Both a biophysical and social understanding of consumption is necessary. This paper proposes a systemic approach to consumption studies, combining an assessment of consumption patterns with an understanding of the drivers behind them. The concepts will be illustrated using a case study of the government-led promotion of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) in Metro Manila, the Philippines. Conclusions will include general policy-recommendations.