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Individual Paper: What material things need to grow in a degrowth society?

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“Consume less, buy less, work less.” The 2016 degrowth conference ended with these words, printed on a degrowth flyer that was handed out across Budapest. While degrowth is associated with a general reduction of material throughput of the global economy, are there any material things that should grow? Are there things that we have to consume and produce more in order to produce or consume less, and/or more sustainably?
The practices theory can help in exploring this topic. Shove and Pantzar (2005) and Warde (2005) have emphasized that material consumption is embedded in practices, and Spaargaaren (2011) has promoted the importance of using the lenses of practices in sustainable consumption research. However, to our knowledge, there is a lack of studies focusing on the tools, objects, technologies, i.e. (infra)structural changes that occur in one’s life when one deliberately aims to consume more sustainably. For example, when I first started receiving a vegetable box from local farmers, I soon bought a Gemüsebürste, a brush to clean the soil from the vegetables.
This research leaves aside questions of the “need” of such consumption, in order to explore what is consumed by people who aim to consume less and more sustainably. In particular we are interested in investigating which objects of consumption are acquired in order to facilitate more sustainable practices of (reduced) consumption.
To investigate this we will be conducting semi-structured interviews with people (n=approximately 15-20, diverse in socio-demographics, in the Netherlands) who describe themselves as deliberately trying to reduce and/or make their consumption more sustainable. The interview will focus on practices and consumption on different themes (e.g. food, clothes, personal care, etc.).
Ultimately, finding out which (infra) structures allow for more sustainable, or lower consumption, practices, can facilitate a transition to a degrowth society, in different ways: e.g. knowing what has to grow, and therefore should be produced in a long-lasting sustainable way; knowing what material structures to promote in order to facilitate more sustainable practices; and an overall better understanding of the fine- grain (material) reality of frugal sustainable living.


Day: 2018-08-24
Start time: 11:00
Duration: 00:15
Room: Nöjesteatern (Theater)
Track: Organisational and Organising Practices



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