Household Sustainability

Household Sustainability

Challenges and Dilemmas in Everyday Life

Chris Gibson, Carol Farbotko, Nicholas Gill, Lesley Head and Gordon Waitt

The authors engage critically, and constructively, with the proposition that households are a key scale of action on climate change. They confront dilemmas of practice and circumstance, and cultural norms of lifestyle and consumerism that are linked to troublesome environmental problems – and question whether they can be easily unsettled. The work also illuminates the informal and often unheralded work by households – frequently the poorest – in reducing their environmental burden. This important book is critical to understanding both the barriers to household sustainability and the ‘unsung’ sustainability work carried out by householders.

Chapter 6: Toilets

Chris Gibson, Carol Farbotko, Nicholas Gill, Lesley Head and Gordon Waitt

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, climate change, environmental economics, environmental sociology


Householders are being urged to take shorter showers, clean their teeth without running water, and reduce flushing of toilets. But such measures often conflict with treasured ideas about domestic hygiene, and modernity’s promise of spotlessly clean bodies and homes (Chapters 7, 15). According to the World Health Organization (WHO 2012) more than 2.5 billion people lack access to any type of improved sanitation facility, and diarrhoeal diseases are one of the main causes of child death worldwide. This chapter explores the dilemmas associated with sanitation, defined as the cultural practices involved in satisfying primal human urges to defecate and urinate, and the safe and sound handling and disposal of human excreta (Avvannavar and Mani 2008). Sustainable sanitation adds a further dimension, responding to ecological pressures of human waste. It involves reduced use of fresh water resources and, ideally, reuse of human excrement as agricultural fertilizer as part of a sanitation cycle (Black and Fawcett 2008; Jewitt 2011). Western households are, generally, participants in unsustainable sanitation systems.

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