Putting Sustainability into Practice

Putting Sustainability into Practice

Applications and Advances in Research on Sustainable Consumption

Edited by Emily H. Kennedy, Maurie J. Cohen and Naomi Krogman

Putting Sustainability into Practice offers a robust and interdisciplinary understanding of contemporary consumption routines that challenges conventional approaches to social change premised on behavioral economics and social psychology. Empirical research is featured from eight different countries, using both qualitative and quantitative data to support its thesis.

Chapter 9: How policy frameworks shape environmental practice: three cases of alternative dwelling

Chelsea Schelly

Subjects: environment, ecological economics, environmental sociology, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


This chapter examines three cases of alternative residential dwelling and explores how policies operate as systems of provision to shape social practices in the home. The analysis is motivated by the fact that the social and technological organization of residential life has profound environmental impacts. Residential dwelling practices contribute significantly to carbon emissions, waste production, and material inefficiencies, which, in turn, compound environmental degradation. Alternative forms of dwelling can reduce the environmental impact of residential life. The chapter analyzes adoption of residential solar electric technology, off-grid living in homes called Earthships, and life in an intentional community to shed light on how policies shape collective practice and to show how people assign symbolic understandings when choosing alternative forms of dwelling. Based on interviews and ethnographic fieldwork, the three case studies demonstrate a range of alternative possibilities in the domain of residential dwelling involving renewable energy technologies, more sustainable forms of organization, and – most importantly – innovative practices with both environmental and social benefits. These outcomes are actualized through practices as routine interactions with evolving technological systems. Dwelling practices that differ from conventional residential forms are facilitated and constrained through policy frameworks that operate as systems of provision to shape and give meaning to social practices.

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