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 18: Retirement

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

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


Retirement is a lifecycle transition with implications for sustainability as people change their work, consumption and often residential practices. The move out of the paid workforce has implications for household sustainability and the specific dilemmas discussed in other chapters. In this chapter we concentrate on three specific changes of the transition to retirement: in consumption patterns, dwellings and time. The retiree population in most affluent Western societies is also in transition, from depression-era babies to baby-boomers. Current retirees who were born between the two world wars and retired at the end of the twentieth century often have a strong heritage of living frugally, and provide a bench- mark of ‘making do’. Those born after World War II – the ‘baby-boomer’ generation, now coming into retirement – have grown up in more affluent circumstances. They are also living longer, with expectations of an active retirement. We trace this second transition through the examples of frugality, driving and retirement migration. The two transitions operate together to frame the sustainability dilemmas and environmental implications of an ageing population. An increasing population of healthy retirees provides a resource, for example through environmental volunteerism. There is also a set of specific environmental impacts, such as those associated with new migration patterns, a changing built environment (Nelson 2010) and increased health care requirements. An emerging research agenda around these issues (see Davies and James 2011, Pillemer et al. 2011 and Scarfo 2011 for recent reviews) indicates that much more work on the environmental impacts of ageing will need to be done over the coming decades.

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