Practice theory and household energy consumption

Harries, Tim, Rettie, Ruth and Burchell, Kevin (2011) Practice theory and household energy consumption. In: Royal Geographical Society (RGS) with the Institute of British Geographers (IBG) Annual International Conference 2011: The Geographical Imagination; 31 Aug - 2 Sep 2011, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Among researchers keen to move beyond behaviour change models, practice theory has become a popular approach to understanding changing patterns of energy. On the basis of these understandings, some have tentatively suggested interventions to facilitate reductions in energy consumption. In this paper, we discuss how we have sought to combine practice theory with an interventionist stance and some of the challenges this has presented. For example, in one of our projects, CHARM, we use practice theory as a frame for understanding the outcomes of a behaviour change intervention. In this paper, we comment on the opportunities and challenges presented by our attempt to apply practice theory in the CHARM qualitative interviews. Drawing on these interviews, we explore lay discourse about energy consuming practices, such as cooking and cleaning; and we attempt to identify the elements and links that constitute and stabilise these practices. We also present a second project, Smart Communities, which uses lay discussion of practices as an intervention. This project brings together members of a community and encourages them to reflect upon, discuss, make visible, and challenge some of their energy consuming practices. Drawing on our experiences of these two projects, we reflect upon a number of questions. How can we use qualitative research to identify elements of practices and the links between them? What are the implications of using a practice lens in research interviews? Can we use practice theory in the design of interventions without drawing on concepts such as ‘the individual’ and ‘behaviour’, or is it possible to draw on these concepts without reproducing the more troublesome assumptions associated with traditional models of behaviour change?

Actions (Repository Editors)

Item Control Page Item Control Page