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Sustainable Consumption Institute

Environmental habitus

This research explores the intergenerational transmission of environmental behaviours in cross national comparison.

Our aims

Photograph of a market place in South Korea, showing rubbish collection site.

We propose a conceptual framework that is an alternative to the current emphasis on demographic and attitudinal characteristics as correlates of environmental behaviours. We propose a shift of focus to the family unit, to examine the importance of intergenerational transmission of dispositions that are favourable to pro-environmental behaviour. Our main theoretical heuristic is environmental habitus. It argues that a pro-environmental disposition runs in the family; if one’s family holds values and behavioural dispositions of frugality, modesty, or conservation, it will have consequences for everyday pro-environmental behaviour. Adoption of environmental behaviours does not take place only because people follow the imperatives of the environmental movement or government, or because they hold an environmental ideology, but it also lies in the mundane, daily practices and rituals of a family.

Cross-national comparison

With Itay Greenspan (Hebrew University) and Femida Handy (University of Pennsylvania) and with funding from the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation, we ask if environmental takes different forms in three different national contexts – Israel, the United States, and South Korea. Our analysis is based on two original data sources: group interviews of family triads (grandparents, parents, children), and nationally-representative surveys of family dyads (parents and children).

Project update

Two collaborators on an international project, Dr Itay Greenspan from the Hebrew University and Prof Femida Handy from the University of Pennsylvania, will spend one week at the SCI in February 2019. Our project titled A Cross-National Analysis of the Intergenerational Transmission of environmental Habitus is based on data collection conducted in 2016-2018, which included three nationally representative surveys in South Korea, Israel, and the US, and group interviews in the same countries.

In April 2018, we embarked on the write-up phase of the project, which will continue through 2019. The purpose of the work visit is twofold. First, to engage in an intensive effort to finish writing two papers based on our joint project:

  • Mechanisms of Habitus and the Intergenerational Transfer of Household Practices in South Korea in SCORAI
  • Environmental Habitus: The Intergenerational Transmission of Environmental Behaviours in Cross-National Comparison in ISA

The second purpose of the visit is to meet with the Social Inequalities and Sustainable Households (SISH) project team (Sherilyn, Catherine, Tally), who also study households and daily practices. The two teams will inform each other and will look for an opportunity for an international bid.

Project leader