Many mainstream visions of sustainable societies assume that ‘green’ products will come to replace existing ones, reducing the footprint of consumption and enabling daily life to continue relatively undisturbed. However, several sustainable consumption studies have demonstrated that product substitution is not necessarily a straightforward process. This article asks whether the increased consumption of plant-based ‘mylk’, which is marketed as a more sustainable option compared to dairy milk, can be understood as a case of sustainable consumption via product substitution. The study applies a mixed methods approach, combining quantitative data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey with secondary qualitative data from the Mass Observation Archive. We find that while the consumption of mylk has increased and that of milk decreased, this cannot be characterised as a straightforward case of substitution. Many people consume mylk alongside milk, rather than cutting milk consumption entirely. Rising mylk consumption requires the engagement of new, sometimes conflicting, meanings around health and the environment. In addition, a range of situational factors constitute unequal mylk consumption in society, and provisioning systems present important drivers and barriers that shape mylk consumption. Overall, our account suggests that moving towards sustainable consumption is not a simple process of product substitution as mylk is often consumed in addition to milk, and as this process requires adjustments in practices and meanings, unfolds unevenly within society, and is shaped by production systems rather than just demand.
The frequency of video game consumption is a contested topic among scholars. In existing research, the extent of video game use is often related to the terminologies ‘excessive gaming’, ‘video game addiction’ and ‘problem gaming’. Yet the socio-material and practical qualities of gaming in everyday life have received little theoretical and empirical attention in the research on frequent video gaming. By considering these issues this article aims at detaching time spent gaming from a problem framework through a practice theoretical perspective. The empirical data stems from a qualitative study of young Danish adults who are frequently engaged in gaming. The article finds that gaming is constituted by multiple socio-material components that make it highly convenient to consume in everyday life. First, the devices and applications involved in gaming setups conjure mundane, and not focused, engagements with video games. Second, the mobility of gaming enables it to be simultaneously performed with other everyday practicalities such as cooking or commuting. Third, frequent video gaming may occur because the affordances of gaming grant easy access and flexible options for socialising. The convenience of gaming suggests that frequent engagements with video gaming can be viewed as a consequence of how people value their time use.
This article examines different kinds of consumption desires of Finnish consumers by asking how they would change their consumption habits if they had more money at their disposal. As previous research on consumption desires has been mainly based on the essence of desires and the cycle of fulfilling hedonistic desires and creating new ones, this study analyses the desires in the context of the ages of both consumers and consumer society. The focus was differences in consumption desires between age groups and changes across 20 years. The data were derived from three repeated surveys collected in 1999, 2009 and 2019 in Finland (N = 5,459), which were analysed with principal-axis factor analysis and ANCOVA. The factor analysis extracted three types of consumption desires: hedonistic, charitable-cultural and materialistic. Saving-oriented desires were analysed as a single item. Hedonistic consumption desires were the most typical for the youngest age group (18–25), and materialistic desires were the highest for young adults aged 26–35 across all three years of measurement. Older people had the most charitably and culturally oriented desires in 1999, but older age groups’ orientation to saving and charitable giving and culture decreased across 20 years. Hedonistic consumption desires generally decreased over 20 years, particularly in young age groups. Conversely, young people’s desire to save increased significantly, whereas the oldest age groups saved less. The research shows that both changes in consumer values and economic circumstances are manifested in people’s consumption desires.
The sociology of consumption has had a fraught relationship with aesthetics, with varying levels of interest in the concept throughout the history of the discipline. Today, aesthetics is barely mentioned at all and is not considered to be relevant to enabling transitions towards more sustainable futures. In this article I demonstrate how this is due both to the prevalent understanding of aesthetics in sociology – anchored in Kantian discourse on art – and the unwitting consequences of the disciplinary developments which have taken place following the cultural turn. Drawing from philosophy and anthropology, I then present two different understandings of aesthetics, inspired by Aristotle and Dewey, which provide more fruitful avenues for engaging with the concept. The article presents existing work taking these definitions forward and shows how reconceptualising aesthetics enables us both to grasp the specificities of the unsustainable patterns of consumption of the wealthy and unequal societies of Europe, North America and Australasia, and envision the possibility of a societal transformation beyond the consumer aesthetics of ‘the Capitalocene’. Decoupling aesthetics from art, I argue for the importance of defamiliarisation and aesthetic revisioning in the creation of fairer, more sustainable and better futures.
We are living in a flexitarian age, in which reduced meat eating and vegetarianism are normalising, while simultaneously meat eating is still the norm in Dutch society. A resulting individualisation of diets begs the question whether and how omnivores and veg*ns living together maintain commensality. Based on interviews with 119 young people living in shared households – made up of both veg*ns and omnivores – we investigate how these young adults shape and manage their shared meals. Our results show that veg*ns and meat eaters maintain commensality by, first, using a number of practical strategies that result in meals that are suitable to those different diets, and, second, creating a new norm that defines the diet as an individual choice so as to manage potential conflicts around clashing norms. This results in an active upkeep of tolerance in which veg*nism, meat eating and associated ethical-moral considerations are not discussed. The acceptance of (specifically) vegetarianism, the limited social tensions between meat lovers, meat reducers and meat avoiders, and our finding that people find ways to eat – apart – together, hints at optimism for the future.
This article examines how people’s life course and cultural backgrounds impact their consumption practices, particularly in the use, disposal and treatment of water in bathroom cleaning. We explore this through 12 oral histories from Brazilian and English residents, including locals, migrants and cross-national couples. Our findings provide an account of cleaning routines in two cultural contexts, offering insights for those addressing sustainability, consumer behaviour and water governance. Our research suggests that culture, upbringing, expectations of cleanliness, and social and material contexts all shape how people clean bathrooms, and when contexts change, material elements become particularly influential.