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Converging conventions of comfort, cleanliness and convenience.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date12/2003
JournalJournal of Consumer Policy
Journal number4
Volume26
Number of pages24
Pages395-418
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Many commentators analyse green consumption as if it were an expression of individual environmental commitment. Such approaches suppose that the adoption of more sustainable ways of life depends upon the diffusion of "green" beliefs and actions through society. In this article, the author explores the idea that patterns of resource consumption (especially of energy and water) reflect what are generally inconspicuous routines and habits. Are such conventions evolving or standardising in ways that are increasingly resource intensive? In addressing this question with reference to three domains of daily life: comfort, cleanliness, and convenience, four simple models of change are outlined, two of which imply an inexorable escalation of resource consumption, two of which do not. The purpose of this illustrative exercise is to demonstrate the importance of understanding the systemic redefinition of "normal practice." Rather than taking individual behaviour to be the central unit of analysis, the case is made for an approach that concentrates on the construction and transformation of collective convention. This theoretical reorientation opens the way for programmes of research and policy informed by an appreciation of the technological and the commercial as well as the symbolic and cultural dimensions of more and less resource-intensive ways of life.