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 13: Screens

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

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


The television, arguably more than any other domestic technology, influences how we ‘design our spaces, habits and even emotions’ (Lanvin 1990, 85). After sleeping and working, it is the activity that most occupies daily time, the ‘single most common form of domestic recreation’ (Bennett et al. 1999, 67). There is a television device now for every four human beings on earth, making it second only to the mobile phone (Chapter 14), ‘one of the most popular pieces of electrical and electronic equipment in our society’ (Hischier and Baudin 2010, 428). Television is a powerful symbol and presence in everyday life: an archetypal technology of consumerism, a sign of escape from peas- antry, an icon of suburban life, a principal means of communication and imag- ined community. This chapter accordingly discusses the sustainability dilemmas of televisions in the household. It is difficult to separate discussion of the environmental sustainability impacts of television from that technology’s myriad other impacts. Television influences all kinds of things. It informs and entertains, seduces, and pacifies; television is a means to advertise excessive consumption to broader popula- tions, and can lead to extreme human sedentarism (Hu et al. 2003). Television watching has been shown to reduce teenagers’ consumption of healthy fruit and vegetables, contributing to growing problems of child and youth obesity (Boynton-Jarrett et al. 2003). Beyond the immediate impacts associated with the production and running of televisions are broader entanglements and practices in the home.

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