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Covid-19: an opportunity for a sustainability transition?

From April 2020 to the present I have been involved with an international (mainly European) research team exploring  Covid‐19 and consumption, disruptions and implications for everyday life and sustainability.

Since June 2020, this project has gathered data from around 250 research participants through interviews and photo diaries, exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on everyday life practices among citizens across different countries of the world (UK, USA, China, Vietnam, Switzerland, Ireland, France, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands). Blogs, the team and further details can be found on the project site: https://everydaylifeinapandemic.wordpress.com/ 

We currently have a Special Issue under-review in the journal of Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy. 

1. Instituted and professional  practices: ‘lockdown’ and ‘domestic’ consumption 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world placed communities under ‘lockdown'. As a result, various practices of consumption were uprooted from their instituted settings and re-rooted in homes. This unprecedented, mass reorganisation of normality resulted in increased domestic consumption as practices typically occurring in offices, gyms, and restaurants were forced into homes, demanding acquisition of materials and altering expectations of what a home is for. This article contributes to literature on COVID-19 and practice-based consumption research by complicating optimistic narratives about the potential for this disruption to downsize the consumer economy. Combining qualitative household interviews, with secondary data about wider resource use trends, and historical reflection on changes in the meaning of home in the UK, we reveal how the anchoring of instituted practices results in material acquisition and a desire for more domestic space. Professional practices and institutions have taken on increasing significance for domestic consumption with stay-at-home orders blurring boundaries between home, work, and leisure - and thus, we conclude by arguing that future domestic consumption research and policy should attend more to institutional qualities of practices.

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