10: Conclusion: “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us”


This chapter concludes the book by explaining why households are making interventions in conventional ways of getting things done and what this might mean for policymakers and others who are considering promoting household-level pro-environmental practices. Household sustainability efforts, while well intentioned, are most frequently aimed at addressing environmental problems that eco-conscious households view as originating at other sites and on other scales. Each household individually repeats common sustainability tasks that could be achieved more effectively collectively or on a larger scale. At the same time, environmental and social problems are caused by the organization of families into individual households, a modern arrangement that is both socially and environmentally taxing. The eco-conscious parents interviewed for this book are trying their best to do something different. And some pragmatic reforms that involve changing the social meaning of practices in ways that decrease the demand for resources may provide a practical path forward. But without radical transformations in infrastructures and institutions—including the family household—these efforts will always fall short of what is needed to fully protect people and the environment from harm.

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