Exploring the (un)sustainable Normal: Biography and Consumption in Everyday Life


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Exploring the (un)sustainable Normal: Biography and Consumption in Everyday Life

  1. 1. Exploring the (Un)sustainable Normal: Biography and Consumption in Everyday Life Fiona Shirani Catherine Butler Karen Henwood Karen Parkhill Nick Pidgeon
  2. 2. Sustainable Lifestyles • Increasing visibility of environmental issues but is sustainability a mainstream concept/norm? • Relationships to norms change over time and across the lifecourse. How are sustainable lifestyles differently regarded? • How do people respond to being outside the mainstream?
  3. 3. Energy Biographies Exploring people’s energy use in the context of individual life course trajectories and their understandings of energy use •3 waves of interviews over a 1 year period •74 participated in initial interviews, 36 in the longer-term (18 men and 18 women, aged 18-70) •Photograph tasks Ely Caerau Peterston- Super-Ely Royal Free Hospital, London Lammas ecovillage
  4. 4. Jeremy – always an environmentalist I’ve been an environmentalist all my life and I’ve been plugging insulation and renewable energy since the seventies, when they almost dragged you away to the lunatic asylum for talking such things. Community activism
  5. 5. Jeremy – community activism In Peterston, when Connect discussed it, said, well actually, there’s numbers of people in this group who are willing and able to pay themselves for the installation, why don’t we just press ahead with that? … That what we did, we just had a public meeting, told people about it, signed people up who were interested, worked out an approach to invite tenders, chose an installer and then pressed on with it. And I think, the last time I asked, I think there’d been 17 houses that had had an installation done since, so about August last year.
  6. 6. Jeremy – perceived change over time We notice as old lagging environmentalists a generational change in the attitude to recycling for example and energy conservation and a whole host of environmental issues and I’ve probably said it to you before you know we move from being crackers you know crackpot kind of ex-hippies to being mainstream without changing our stance whatsoever, it’s merely the world changed around us
  7. 7. Jeremy – views on ecovillage life I think there’s a conflation in those sorts of projects between low-impact, high-tech in an elegant renewable sense living and communal and/or cooperative living … I think we can persuade the majority of the population on the strand of lower impact, high-tech living I think we can persuade some of the population to do more for themselves but not a lot and on the communal and cooperative side, I think you’re looking at a fairly steep mountainside on that one so I don’t think they are the model for the future
  8. 8. Peter – falling in love with alternative living I found it and totally fell in love with it. I’d never come across anything like it before in my life because I’d just grown up in mainstream culture and it was just so kind of radical and so wonderful, just wow, changed my life really … I was hooked and there was no going back. … And having kind of realised that dream and that place it was like ok but so what? I’m just some crazy guy living in the woods on my own, so what?
  9. 9. Peter – first world sustainable lifestyles I think you know the prospect of being able to run washing machines and fridges and power tools and bits and bobs like that is an important aspect for people living here because people for the most part came to live here not because they wanted to live some kind of frugal peasant lifestyle you know they wanted to live a first world lifestyle in a sustainable way
  10. 10. Peter – ecovillage as future living I see this project as playing some kind of role in a solution in that it offers people a way out of the mainstream and a way to live on the land which doesn’t kind of trash the planet… I think this option or this, the potential to do this is going to look more and more attractive and it’s going to be, yeah I think it’s just going to be taken up more and more because it offers so much.
  11. 11. Conclusions • Perceptions of sustainable lifestyles changed over time … …but still not mainstream • Challenge of overcoming stereotypes • Importance of ‘encounter spaces’ (Anderson, 2007)