6: Cleanliness and Comfort


This chapter describes household practices with respect to indoor comfort in hot and cold weather, bodily cleanliness, and household cleanliness. While cleanliness and comfort involve mundane habits that are easily taken for granted, the eco-conscious households interviewed for this book have made changes to conventional ways of getting things done to make their practices more sustainable. In some cases, these changes take more unwaged time but in other cases these changes—intriguingly—result in less unwaged time devoted to mundane household practices. While it has been said that dirt exists in the eye of the beholder, the same might be said for comfort temperatures, which are at once formed socially and culturally, as well as based on individual tolerance and preference. So while the social meanings of cleanliness and comfort and the things we do to feel clean and comfortable have changed in ways that place increasing demands on natural resources, my informants reveal the potential reductions in demand for resources associated with changing the social meanings of cleanliness and comfort, and, with that, the accompanying time-consuming and resource-demanding practices.

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