Understanding interrelated practices and their climate-related consequences: exploring food, mobility and housing in everyday life

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Caroline Samson Aalborg University, Denmark

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Everyday lives are made of many practices, often more intricately intertwined than recognised. Fundamental practices, like how we eat, move around and live, have profound impacts on the climate and adaptability towards sustainable societies. While the impacts of these practices in isolation may be well understood, the interrelatedness of how these practices foster, constrain or change one another has been scarcely examined. In response, this paper serves a dual purpose. First, to empirically demonstrate a relationship between food-, mobility- and housing-related consumption. It does this by investigating shared practices among young adults living in Denmark. Findings reveal that home location plays a significant role in prefiguring mobility- and food-related practices. Mobility-related practices, like the daily route or mobility mode, adapt to the home’s location, while grocery shopping is conveniently integrated into daily commuting routes. Hence, this study offers empirical evidence of how certain practices not only influence but often prefigure other practices within the context of everyday life. The second purpose of this paper is to reflect on the climate-related consequences of these interdependent practices. The location of the home creates a locked-in situation for various daily practices, such as commuting and grocery shopping, influencing the degree of climate-friendly consumption. For instance, longer commutes resulting from housing relocation may lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions, or the availability of climate-friendly food products is contingent on the grocery stores near the home’s location. This empirical knowledge highlights how policies targeting food, mobility or housing can have far-reaching effects in multiple consumption domains.

Abstract

Everyday lives are made of many practices, often more intricately intertwined than recognised. Fundamental practices, like how we eat, move around and live, have profound impacts on the climate and adaptability towards sustainable societies. While the impacts of these practices in isolation may be well understood, the interrelatedness of how these practices foster, constrain or change one another has been scarcely examined. In response, this paper serves a dual purpose. First, to empirically demonstrate a relationship between food-, mobility- and housing-related consumption. It does this by investigating shared practices among young adults living in Denmark. Findings reveal that home location plays a significant role in prefiguring mobility- and food-related practices. Mobility-related practices, like the daily route or mobility mode, adapt to the home’s location, while grocery shopping is conveniently integrated into daily commuting routes. Hence, this study offers empirical evidence of how certain practices not only influence but often prefigure other practices within the context of everyday life. The second purpose of this paper is to reflect on the climate-related consequences of these interdependent practices. The location of the home creates a locked-in situation for various daily practices, such as commuting and grocery shopping, influencing the degree of climate-friendly consumption. For instance, longer commutes resulting from housing relocation may lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions, or the availability of climate-friendly food products is contingent on the grocery stores near the home’s location. This empirical knowledge highlights how policies targeting food, mobility or housing can have far-reaching effects in multiple consumption domains.

Key messages

  • Food-, mobility- and housing-related practices interrelate in everyday life.

  • The location of the home prefigures or strongly affects mobility- and food-related practices.

  • Climate-related impacts arise when practices are mutually prefigured.

  • Uncovering practice relations offers opportunities to support changes towards climate-friendly societies.

Introduction

It is well established that changes are needed in response to the urgent human-made climate crisis (IPCC, 2023; Richardson et al, 2023). The IPCC points to necessary changes in production as well as consumption to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Focusing on consumption, 80–90 per cent of consumption-based emissions in wealthy, developed and high-consuming areas of the world (for example, Europe, Australia and North America) are related to the domains of food, mobility and housing (Dubois et al, 2019; Moberg et al, 2019; Concito, 2023). Understanding practices within these domains, such as how one eats, how one moves around and how one lives, is thereby key to understanding contemporary consumption dynamics (Shove and Spurling, 2013). This paper therefore delves deeper into understanding consumption practices related to food, mobility and housing, aiming to contribute to advancing climate-friendly societies.

Practices in everyday life, such as those related to food, mobility and housing, are not mutually exclusive (Krog Juvik and Halkier, 2023). They are related, connected, bundled, arranged in complex ways, and forming a nexus of relationships (Nicolini, 2009; Shove and Walker, 2010; Shove et al, 2012; Schatzki, 2019; Castelo et al, 2021). It is within these bundled arrangements of practices that the essence of social life can be understood (Schatzki, 2019). However, only a limited number of studies have analysed this interconnectedness (Warde, 2005; Shove and Walker, 2010; Hui et al, 2017; Blue, 2019; Castelo et al, 2021). To illustrate this cross-domain interaction, various studies have highlighted the relationship between food and mobility. For example, research has shown that grocery shopping constitutes a large share of urban mobility (Pothukuchi and Kaufman, 1999), how people without car access face reduced access to healthy food (Das, 2017) or how mobility connects various locations for food-related practices like dining out or shopping facilities (Castelo et al, 2021). Similarly, connections have been identified between mobility and housing. For example, how transit-orientated development can increase housing costs (Das, 2017) or how community-based housing can reduce travel needs (Schäfer et al, 2018). Finally, links between housing and food have been explored. For example, the correlation between subsidised workplace meals and increased domestic food waste (Evans et al, 2012), how cooking impacts energy consumption in the home (Gram-Hanssen et al, 2020), or how domestic food appliances have undergone trends of ‘more, bigger, and better’ (Sahakian, 2022). While new research exists on common elements in food, mobility and housing consumption (Christensen et al, 2023; Krog Juvik and Halkier, 2023), research that comprehensively examines the overlap and interconnections of the three domains is lacking.

Based on these insights, this paper has two purposes: the first purpose is to present empirical evidence of the interrelations among practices in the food, mobility and housing domains. This contributes to the existing literature on the cross-domain interconnectedness of practices. It is important to note that the empirical study of each consumption domain is not novel (Akenji and Chen, 2016; Bissell, 2018; Castelo et al, 2021; Stein et al, 2022). By methodologically inquiring into all three consumption domains simultaneously, this research contributes to a deeper understanding of how food, mobility and housing are interrelated. The second purpose of the paper is to bridge the practice relationship with potential climate-related consequences. As established in the introductory paragraph, the urgency of climate change necessitates changes in consumption practices. A lack of understanding regarding how practices interrelate has been pointed to as a barrier to changing consumption practices that are highly routinised and inconspicuous (Hui, 2013; Paddock et al, 2017; Castelo et al, 2021). Therefore, this paper aims to reflect on how knowledge on practice relationships can inform policies and planning supporting more climate-friendly consumption and societies.

To demonstrate a relationship between the three consumption domains in high-consuming areas of the world, this paper uses empirical data from Denmark. Interviews were conducted with young adults (age 25–35) living in Denmark, and theories of practice were used as the theoretical lens to understand everyday life dynamics. The interviews aimed to make sense of consumption practices related to food, mobility and housing, in a period where the young adults moved from one place to another. Practices related to food, mobility or housing transcend and blur the lines between the public and private sphere, as well as indoor or outdoor spaces. For example, food-related practices encompass activities like cooking at home and going grocery shopping. Mobility-related practices encompass activities like bike storage at home and navigating the city. Housing-related practices encompass activities such as heating the home and choosing a new home. These are not necessarily practices done for their own sake, for instance, mobility-related practices like daily route or mobility mode are not done just to move around but to uphold other life obligations like going to work. Or food is not simply bought for its own sake but to sate hunger. Likewise, housing-related practices like heating the house are not done just to consume energy but to stay warm. Aligned with a practice theoretical approach, these practices are not just the actions that are done, they also entail bodily movement, the know-how of the actions, the materials that are enacted, and so forth (Shove et al, 2012; Schatzki, 2019). Using the term ‘home’, instead of ‘house’, ‘apartment’ or similar, thus invokes both the material and immaterial aspects of living in a place, which are essential for comprehending the importance of a home and the practices that take place therein. In this paper, the emphasis will primarily be on the practices that take place around the home, highlighting the home’s role as a material arrangement that prefigures other practices beyond the home’s boundaries.

To make claims on the related practices and understand their climate-related consequences, the paper comprises six parts. The next section will present theoretical approaches to understanding related practices and changes of practices, using theories of practice. The following section will present the methodological approach, expanding on the data that have been used as well as explaining why these young adults are of interest. Empirical vignettes, quotes and maps will be presented in the subsequent sections to show how consumption of food, mobility and housing are related. The fifth section will reflect on how the related practices can have climate-related consequences. The concluding section will summarise, discuss implications, and reflect on potential areas for future research and policy directions.

Theoretical approaches to related practices

Practice researcher Elisabeth Shove (2010) argues that climate policies have for too long focused on individual behaviour change for the urgent climate crisis, which has not led to the needed changes. Instead, theories of practices, a diverse body of theoretical approaches, replace a focus on individual behaviour with socially shared practices (Schatzki, 2001; Reckwitz, 2002; Shove et al, 2012). Social practices are units of analysis, which makes the practice theoretical approach ideal for studying everyday life consumption (Shove et al, 2012). By centring practices to understand dynamics of everyday life, this theoretical lens moves beyond the dualism of, for instance, structure/actor and micro/macro (Schatzki, 2015). Social life is understood as being made up of socially shared practices, which makes it possible to approach all activities in everyday life as practices and treat them in equal ways (Ash, 2020).

Studying several domains of everyday life consumption emerges from the theoretical perspectives on how one practice does not stand alone but is related to others (Schatzki, 2010; 2015; Shove et al, 2012; Hui et al, 2017; Castelo et al, 2021). As Theodore Schatzki argues, ‘practices are not just sets of activities. They are sets of organized activities’ (Schatzki, 2019: 30), and ‘the world contains many practices, not just one. These practices, moreover, are not isolated from one another; they instead, connect. And in connecting they form larger nexuses, complexes, and constellations’ (Schatzki, 2019: 3). Theoretically speaking, practices set up, give meaning to, affect and are inseparable from their arrangements, while arrangements prefigure, channel, facilitate and are essential to practices (Schatzki, 2015).

Castelo et al (2021) have developed a framework to empirically understand how practices can be studied, inspired by Davide Nicolini’s (2009) notion of ‘zooming in and zooming out’. Zooming in on a practice shows how they are made up by meanings, materials, and competences, with and in a time, space and social dimension (Shove et al, 2012; Castelo et al, 2021). Zooming out and tracing the connections between practices, practices can be co-dependent in a complex of practices (Shove et al, 2012), linked in bundles of practices (Shove et al, 2012; Jensen, 2017) or serving as practices in between one another in nexuses of practices (Hui et al, 2017). Overall, practices are related, and they inform, guide and steer other practices (Krog Juvik and Halkier, 2023).

Despite the various terms and levels of dependence among related practices, this paper will empirically show how food-, mobility- and housing-related practices are interrelated – how some practices prefigure other practices. This conceptual commitment also responds to the critique of the flat ontology, which argues that such a flat ontology is unable to see and understand unequal relations between practices (Ash, 2020). This empirical finding shows how some practices are given more importance than other practices. Though it would not have been possible to reach this finding without applying a flat ontology from the start of the research.

I follow the argument that as practices relate, it further means that if one practice changes, the related practices can also change (Spurling et al, 2013; Macrorie et al, 2014; Castelo et al, 2021). Several practice theoretical frameworks have pointed to changes in practices, for instance, Elizabeth Shove and colleagues’ (2012) book The Dynamics of Social Practice: Everyday Life and How it Changes or Nicola Spurling and colleagues’ (2013) framework for practice intervention (recrafting practices, substituting practices and changing how practices interlock). In different ways, these approaches show how practices relate and if changes happen in one practice it will most likely change the related practices. Say, for instance, if the ‘primary’ practice is food making, the ‘secondary’ practice of waste management can be changed according to the ‘primary’ practice. For this paper, I expand on this thinking for the second purpose of the paper. What the empirical section will show is that some practices prefigure or at least strongly affect other practices, and this creates a chain of practices. I will reflect on how this can have implications for obtaining or maintaining climate-friendly practices when practices are related in these prefiguring ways.

Methodological approach

This paper draws on findings from a project that focuses on everyday consumption of food, mobility and housing. The research project draws upon findings from a series of interviews with young adults (aged 25–35) living in Denmark. The young adults in this research were recruited, and of interest to the research, based on several factors. First, the young adults said that they were doing ‘something’ in their everyday life to be climate-friendly. This ranged from turning off the lights when leaving a room to more involved commitments such as practising veganism. Therefore, these young adults were identified to be willing to act on the climate crisis. Second, this age group is of interest as they have grown up at a time when climate change has been discussed extensively in the media and political discourses. It was therefore expected that the young adults had some knowledge of how they might ideally consume in a climate-friendly way. Finally, and central for this paper, the young adults also had a plan or desire to relocate their home within the coming year. This was of interest, as some research shows that when major life transitions are happening – like moving – people are more likely to change their practices as well as being able to express their desires related to this change (Schäfer et al, 2012; Burningham and Venn, 2020). The sampling strategy aimed to have a variation of socio-demographic factors; hence the young adults cover different levels of education, gender, age, cities, partnership status and household constellation.

The interviews with the young adults were conducted in two rounds. The first round of interviews (autumn 2021) aimed to capture the everyday life of young adults living in one of the four biggest cities in Denmark. The focus was on how they lived, how and when they moved around, what they did during the day and what food they consumed. To capture it all, the interviews were conducted in the homes of the young adults to understand their everyday life in situ. Moreover, mental mobilities mapping was done with the young adults to capture their movements outside of their homes (having the young adults draw their routes in the cities) (inspired by Lynch [1960] and Büscher et al [2020]). Multiple methods were thus applied to complementary capture consumption practices happening both within and beyond the home (Halkier and Jensen, 2011; Browne, 2016). Approximately 20 households were interviewed, with a total of approximately 30 young adults (some single, some with partners, some with children).

A year later (autumn 2022), a second round of interviews was conducted with the same young adults but this time in a new home location, and for some also in a new housing constellation (shared homes, living by themselves, with children, with partners). For these interviews, we touched upon how their everyday life had changed since the first interview – after they moved. But more significantly, we spent time inquiring how food, mobility and housing-related practices were perceived by one another, including a focus on climate-friendliness. For this, the young adults were given three paper cards titled ‘food’, ‘mobility’, and ‘housing’. These cards were used to activate the discussion on the relationship between the three consumption domains, as complementary to the data collected in 2021. Approximately 10 households were interviewed, reaching approximately 15 young adults.

The interviews were transcribed and coded. The software tool NVIVO was used for the coding, which was done abductively: some codes were created based on the interview guide while others were created while reading through the interviews. The codes primarily used for this paper were ‘housing-mobility relation’, ‘mobility-food relation’, ‘food-housing relation’ and ‘food-mobility-housing relation’, stemming from both interview sessions. For the writing of this paper, the young adults are anonymised, hence their age, profession, partnership status, city, gender or similar are not revealed. Given the lack of accurate wording when the interest is trying to avoid assuming anyone’s gender, the pronouns of the young adults are non-gendered (they/them). When reading the paper, I hope the reader will keep this in mind.

Moreover, despite practices being the units of analysis, the following empirical sections will provide stories, present quotations and visualise maps associated with specific young adults. These empirical sections will be presented in different styles. The first part will include a ‘before-and-after’ moving vignette of a single young adult, while the second part will include several young adults’ sayings and doings. This is not to individualise practices. Rather, it aims to exemplify how shared practices unfold through specific young adults. Said in another way, the provided empirical examples are not exclusive to these young adults; they represent shared practices among the young adults. One young adult’s story (Mathilde) is used extensively, their story is particularly informative and, despite it being one story, it contains several shared practices among the young adults, making it relevant to the broader sample.

Before proceeding, this research is driven by a motivation of social change towards more sustainable societies. Although sustainability includes social, economic and environmental perspectives, the scope of this paper is on consumption practices and related climate change and carbon emissions. This is not to say that social justice, environmental impacts or economic factors are not equally important. It is simply a way to narrow the scope, to what I term climate-friendliness or climate-related consequences of consumption.

Interrelated food, mobility and housing

The following empirical section is divided into three subsections. The first subsection presents a vignette of a young adult, offering an example that illustrates the interconnectedness of food-, mobility- and housing-related practices in daily life. This vignette shows the reflections young adults face in their everyday lives and when relocating their lives; primarily how the home’s location is given most emphasis along with a willingness to adapt mobility- and food-related practices to the home’s location. The second subsection will present multiple quotes and mental mobilities maps from several young adults to exemplify another recurring pattern: It will showcase how grocery shopping is predominantly integrated into daily trips. Based on the home’s locations, such routes serve as another example of how consumption of food, mobility and housing are interrelated. The final subsection will link the two main patterns and summarise how these specific practices are interrelated.

Location of home

Autumn 2021

Mathilde (they/them) lives and works in a big city in Denmark and has been here for several years because the education Mathilde wanted was only available here. Mathilde lives alone in an apartment of about 50 square metres. Initially, when Mathilde was a student, the apartment was shared with a friend to keep the rent low. But now, with a steady income, Mathilde lives alone. The apartment was originally bought by Mathilde’s parents, but Mathilde has taken over the ownership. For commuting, Mathilde mostly bikes to the city centre and their workplace. However, when it rains or is too windy, Mathilde walks to the nearby train station and uses public transport. Mathilde also has a car primarily used for visits to their partner, who lives 1.5 hours away by car or train in the more rural part of Denmark. Sometimes Mathilde drives to work to head directly to their partner’s place afterward. To accommodate spending several days a week with their partner, Mathilde keeps only “essential food” and non-perishable food at home, usually sticking to a mostly vegetarian diet, though Mathilde eats meat when with their partner.

Mathilde and their partner have long discussed moving in together, feeling weary of constant planning and “living out of a backpack”. They have decided it is time, especially considering the partner’s varying work shifts. They are aiming to live close to their partner’s workplace, in a town that is also convenient for both their hometowns and families. Consequently, Mathilde is leaving the city behind. Mathilde is excited about moving into their new house, where Mathilde and their partner will share a bed every night. Both anticipate less planning and more time together under one roof. For commuting to work, Mathilde plans to take the train, utilising the time for productivity. Although this means spending three hours a day on the train, Mathilde’s work hours will remain the same. They have been house hunting for a place “on the right side of town” so Mathilde can easily access the highway or catch a train. Finding a suitable rental that met Mathilde and their partner’s financial and housing criteria was challenging, prompting them to receive financial assistance from their families to purchase a house. Eventually, they found the perfect house “on the right side of town”, close to friends and family, and as convenient as possible for both Mathilde and their partner’s workplace.

Autumn 2022

Mathilde now lives in the small town with Mathilde’s partner while continuing to work in the city they moved from. The new house is 150 square metres and includes a garden and parking space on the parcel. Mathilde expresses overall happiness with the new place. Despite the influence of Mathilde’s partner leading to a more meat-centric diet, Mathilde dreams of growing vegetables in the garden but does not have the time at present. Mathilde finds their partner’s insistence on meat consumption rather silly but nevertheless complies with it. I have not been to Mathilde’s new place for more than a couple of minutes when Mathilde tells me that they have hit what they term “the commuting wall”. Mathilde expresses the weariness associated with daily commutes. Consequently, Mathilde has resolved to work from home more frequently than initially intended, or occasionally stay with friends in the city of work to reduce the commute. This new organisation of everyday life has led to tighter planning for Mathilde, preferring to travel to and from work via train – albeit a train that runs just once per hour. The car parked in front of the house remains mostly stationary, as parking near Mathilde’s workplace is not possible. Thus, Mathilde’s reliance on trains has grown, a mode of transportation they find draining. Mathilde and their partner spend less time together in the home, but “at least share a bed almost every night”. Consequently, Mathilde and their partner are contemplating moving back to the city or closer to it, or perhaps settling “somewhere in between” their two workplaces. The latter relocation would help distribute the “commuting burden” more evenly.

Summarising

The story of Mathilde serves as an illustrative example of the broader sample of young adults, demonstrating how the location of the home prefigures other practices in their everyday lives and during relocating. This underscores not only the relationship between housing and mobility, as shown by Bissell (2018) and Stein et al (2022), but also demonstrates the adaptability of food-related practices based on the home situation. In daily life, the home prefigures mobility modes and routes based on daily activities like work, as well as food storage and dietary preferences. When transitioning between two living places, Mathilde focused on food storage, while in the new home, the emphasis shifted to cultivating a vegetable garden and adapting to the partner’s dietary preferences. The home’s location remains significant during relocating, primarily prioritising proximity to friends and family, and secondary access to mobility-related arrangements, such as train stations or highways. Once the practice of selecting a new home is completed, the location of the home becomes the basis for its material arrangement within a spatial context, continuing to prefigure other practices. Social relations play a significant role in these practices; Mathilde changed their diet upon moving in with their partner, and the decision to relocate the home was influenced by closeness to the partner and other social relations. Adapting to mobility-related arrangements led to a compromise: It stayed beneficial for the partner but became worse for Mathilde. The housing situation resulted in a locked-in scenario, impacting Mathilde’s wellbeing due to the prioritisation of the home’s location. The anticipated time Mathilde and their partner expected to spend together in the new home, including dreams of cultivating a vegetable garden, shifted as time became consumed by commuting, leaving less time for shared activities in their new home.

Going grocery shopping on the daily commute

The example illustrates that when searching for a new home, young adults emphasise and give importance to being near social relations and mobility-related arrangements. They are willing to adapt their mobilities according to the home’s location and daily activities like work. Adding to this, they emphasised that different elements related to food consumption were not decisive elements in their relocation. These elements included living near a specific grocery store, having a kitchen garden or having specific kitchen requirements – aspects they reflected on but were not determinative. There is an underlying assumption that grocery shopping is always available, a notion that holds true in Denmark and is supported by research (Pothukuchi and Kaufman, 1999). Therefore, adapting certain food-related practices to the home’s location is relatively uncomplicated and convenient. In general, young adults are willing to change their grocery store. Christian articulates it in this way: “I do prefer Rema [a grocery store chain], it’s the absolute best, I think. But I choose Netto [another grocery store chain] because it’s nearby. Yes… Yeah very silly actually” (Christian, autumn 2021, translated by author).

This quote corresponds to a recurring pattern that emerged in the empirical data. When understanding the interrelationship between food, mobility and housing, a central practice revolves around going grocery shopping. It is often not the specific grocery store or a planned recipe that guides the grocery shopping location, but rather the daily route from home to daily activities. As Carla and Anders explain: “We only go to this one grocery store. It’s so convenient, or you know, it’s just down the road, yeah. It’s easy because it’s just around the corner and on the go. And luckily, they have everything we need including a great selection of ecological products” (Carla and Anders, autumn 2021, translated by author). This finding is further exemplified by mental mobilities maps presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Drawings of daily route
Figure 1: Drawings of daily route
Figure 1:

Mental mobilities maps. The pink line marks the daily route; the green star marks a grocery store; the blue text marks home; the yellow text marks daily activities (Nanna, autumn 2021 [first]; Silje, autumn 2021 [second]; Jonathan, autumn 2021 [third])

Citation: Consumption and Society 3, 2; 10.1332/27528499Y2024D000000010

These three maps serve as precedents of different perspectives of how the daily route is connected and centred around the home’s location and daily activities. The daily activities, such as commuting to work or going to the gym, prefigure the location for grocery shopping. The practice of going to the grocery store shows a prevalent pattern where food acquisition is somewhat under-prioritised in comparison to daily mobility-related practices and the home’s location. Although certain speciality food shopping places, like special stores or farmers’ markets, occasionally influence the daily route and prompt young adults to take detours. This is exemplified in Silje’s map in Figure 1 or expressed by Esther: “We don’t go to any other grocery store than the one nearby. Or actually, we do sometimes pick up veggies in another part of the city, but it’s because it’s being wasted if not picked up. And we don’t like food waste” (Esther and Mikkel, autumn 2021, translated by author). This is often viewed as an addition to daily life, not something there is time for in daily routines. Yet it shows that if food holds a special significance, it can alter mobility-related practices.

In certain cases, grocery shopping was guided by the mode of transportation. Some young adults prioritised bulk shopping when driving a car, whereas others felt constrained in their grocery shopping when walking or biking to the grocery store. Afia expresses this: “If I need a lot of food, I’ll always take the car” (Afia, autumn 2021, translated by author). A similar notion emerged in the conversation with Mads and Louise:

‘Personally, I think that there’s too much work in unlocking the bike and finding a place to park it near the grocery store. It’s easier to just park it at home and walk to the grocery store. I might use two to three minutes parking the bike and pack all the stuff on the bike. And I rather want to use those minutes just to walk to the grocery store.’ (Mads)

Louise concurred, stating: “Yes. Yes. I also think that it’s because I don’t have a basket on my bike. So, it’s a bit challenging to balance the bike with the bags of groceries, and so on. It’s a bit dangerous” (Mads and Louise, autumn 2021, translated by author).

Altogether these examples show that certain mobility-related practices guide and partly prefigure the food-related practice of grocery shopping in multiple ways. Findings confirm that food provisioning is highly driven by convenience (Shove, 2003; Christensen et al, 2023).

Summarising

Exploring the relationship of mobile everyday life and its connection to food-related practices, this subsection showed a clear pattern: grocery shopping is consistently integrated into the daily mobility route. This daily route serves to link the home with activities like commuting to work, and somewhere on the daily route food shopping is added. This not only shows the relationship between mobility and food, as shown by Akenji and Chen (2016) and Godin and Sahakian (2018), but further connects to housing. While the latter example in the previous section shows that people might change mobility to adapt to different forms of food shopping, the first example shows that the routes between home and daily activities have a prefiguring effect on where food is acquired. Although grocery shopping is incorporated into the daily route, none of the young adults emphasised the significance of having nearby grocery stores when searching for a new home. Rather, this aspect is simply adapted to both the home’s location and the daily route and activities. This finding shows that the practice of doing grocery shopping assumes a secondary role, with mobility-related practices, like going to work or the gym, often imposing a more prefiguring effect on practices related to acquiring food.

Connecting patterns: relationship of food, mobility and housing

The first purpose of this paper is to empirically demonstrate a relationship between food, mobility and housing. The emerging patterns within the empirical data indicate that practices related to food, mobility and housing hold varying degrees of prefiguration in daily life. Young adults predominantly prioritise the location of their homes, a practice less frequent than moving around or grocery shopping. Nevertheless, the home’s location significantly influences related practices in both daily life and during relocating. The young adults are willing – or deem it necessary – to adjust their mobility-related practices according to their home’s location and daily activities. While they aim to adapt mobility-related practices to secure an ideal home location, they realise it can involve sacrifices in their daily routines. Food acquisition primarily occurs on the daily commute, indicating its adaption to mobility-related practices, which themselves are adapted to the housing situation. Simultaneously, while relocating home is given a lot of reflection, going grocery shopping is more driven by convenience (Christensen et al, 2023). This prioritisation demonstrates that everyday life involves assigning varying degrees of importance to different practices, despite their different temporalities. Housing assumes a central role in this context, with mobility adjusting to the housing situation, and food aligning itself in response. This relationship remains consistent both before and after the life course transition of moving.

Climate-related consequences on interrelated practices

This paper has now provided empirical evidence that consumption of food, mobility and housing are interrelated. The following section aims to reflect on the second purpose of the paper: Connecting the aforementioned findings with climate-related consequences. It will reflect on potential climate-related consequences when the location of a home prefigures or strongly affects numerous other practices. Additionally, it will illustrate how the prefiguring effect extends beyond the practices presented earlier, encompassing various other arranged practices. Altogether, this knowledge can offer inspiration and input for policies and planning aimed at enhancing more climate-friendly consumption and societies.

The chain of practices outlined in the previous section simplifies the intricate relationships between food, mobility and housing. This relationship highlights how housing arrangements prefigure or strongly affect mobility- and food-related practices, making the housing arrangement central not only for daily life but also for life course transitions and efforts toward fostering more climate-friendly societies. The role of housing location as a prefiguring factor in daily life and relocation affects various housing-related practices. For example, energy consumption adjusts to the available energy supply, whether renewable or not. Additionally, most young adults, including Mathilde, upsized their homes after moving, potentially leading to increased greenhouse emissions (Huebner and Shipworth, 2017). Larger space demands greater resources for heating, cooling and furnishing, which may be regarded as less climate-friendly due to their resource consumption. These consumption practices, while not directly linked to prioritising the home’s location, stem from a shared practice of upsizing homes upon relocation to the ideal location. The decision about the home’s location is not solely about an ideal spatial context, close to friends and family, but also involves opting for larger homes compared to the previous.

Priority of a home’s location has climate-related consequences not only for other housing-related practices but also for other mobility-related practices. Using a car is less climate-friendly than biking (Moberg et al, 2019). In Mathilde’s case, post-moving, they can no longer commute to work by bike due to the home’s location. The housing location hinders the more climate-friendly practice of biking, leading Mathilde to use public transport instead. Public transport is viewed as more climate-friendly than cars but less so than biking (Moberg et al, 2019). On a more climate-positive note, Mathilde explains that their car is now more stationary, as there is no longer a need for frequent trips to their partner’s place in addition to a lack of parking facilities at their workplace. But for Mathilde’s wellbeing, they felt exhausted by commuting. So, while it might be positive for the climate, it was not all positive for Mathilde’s wellbeing. An interesting aspect to explore further in future research. Moreover, many young adults who moved outside of the cities note that public transport has become scarcer, as observed in Mathilde’s situation. This limited availability of public transport, coupled with a perception of freedom and flexibility (Freudendal-Pedersen, 2009), may lead to more frequent private car usage. While Mathilde was able to work from home, consequently reducing car usage after the move, some young adults, lacking this option, increased their car usage. This is not conducive to creating sustainable societies, as cars not only emit greenhouse gases but also occupy space and release polluting particles.

A recurring pattern among young adults who moved outside the cities is increased time spent on mobility practices. The longer distance to daily activities, such as work, means more transportation and potentially results in higher greenhouse gas emissions. However, this is not a one-to-one correlation; some young adults, like Mathilde, also worked from home more frequently. The key point here is to emphasise the potential implication for climate-friendly practices when the distance between home and daily activities grows (Allam et al, 2022; Samson and Freudendal-Pedersen, 2022). Young adults who stayed in the cities did not undergo big changes in their mobility practices; their daily routes changed, impacting where they stopped for grocery shopping. Nevertheless, the central idea thus far is to demonstrate how the location of the home not only impacts whether their living situation is climate-friendly but also shapes the climate-friendliness of various mobility-related practices.

In the latter part of this chain of practices, food acquisition comes into play. Grocery shopping typically occurs at the most convenient location along the daily routes, thereby adapting to local supply. This is not to imply that certain grocery stores inertly offer more climate-friendly products than others. Rather, the emphasis is on highlighting the lack of ‘agency’ in choosing a grocery store. Most young adults tend to opt for the grocery store situated along the daily route from their home to daily activities, adapting to its available products. As meat and dairy products significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet is seen as more climate-friendly (Concito, 2023). However, only 3 per cent of people in Denmark follow these climate-friendly diets (Coop Analyse, 2022). Consequently, when young adults like Mathilde relocate to less populated areas, the demand for vegetarian or vegan products may decrease compared to more densely populated areas. In less populated areas, the limited number of residents statistically restricts the availability of these diets, making it challenging for young adults to obtain or maintain climate-friendly diets. This potential scarcity of climate-friendly diets becomes a challenge rooted in the location of the home. Moreover, as shown in research (Wendler, 2023) and illustrated in Mathilde’s story, dietary preferences are highly influenced by social relations. Mathilde’s story exemplifies how moving led to a shift towards a more meat-heavy diet due to their partner’s preferences. While this change was not directly prefigured to the home’s location, it underscores how various practices and practice elements within those practices can influence how practices unfold, and that social relations have a great importance on various practices. The importance of social relations for climate-friendly changes ought to be further explored.

Summarising and concluding remarks

The aim of the paper is twofold: First, to understand how practices related to food, mobility and housing consumption relate, and, second, to reflect on how that knowledge can be used to enhance more climate-friendly consumption and societies. To achieve these purposes, this paper explored shared food-, mobility- and housing-related practices in the everyday life of young adults living in Denmark. Drawing on theories of practices to understand everyday life dynamics, the paper uses data over two years and multiple methods to show some emerging consumption patterns.

Regarding the first purpose of the paper, it becomes evident that practices across food, mobility and housing consumption are interrelated. Delving into these relationships, it emerged that the location of the home holds a lot of importance – in daily life and when relocating. The home’s location is predominantly based on being close to friends, family and the workplace, reflecting how social relations are essential, but more essential for the scope of this paper, how mobility-related arrangements rather than food-related practices are considered when relocating. There is a willingness to adapt mobility-related practices in accordance with the home’s location, whereas food-related practices are not decisive factors. Additionally, this study highlighted another recurring pattern, related to grocery shopping. Routinely, grocery shopping is done on the daily route, demonstrating how the practice is highly driven by convenience. Connecting these patterns shows that the home’s location prefigures or strongly affects mobility-related practices, which in turn influences where grocery shopping occurs. Understanding these practice relationships is essential to understanding the dynamics of social life. For instance, to fully understand how people move around or why people go to one grocery store over another, a focus on the location of the home is needed. Moreover, it highlights that understanding social life requires an examination of dynamics both inside and outside the home. The concept of ‘home’ as a material arrangement impacts food-, mobility- and housing-related practices both within the home (for example, energy consumption or car storage) and outside the home (for example, connectedness to grocery store or public transport).

Concerning the second purpose, this paper reflects on how these practice relationships potentially have climate-related consequences. Moving closer to more climate-friendly consumption and society requires a comprehensive understanding of the interdependencies among practices. Notably, housing-related consumption emerges as the primary role that shapes mobility- and food-related practices. In a climate context, it is worth highlighting that the relocation of homes not only can lead to increased transportation but further result in larger homes or adaptation to local energy supplies not based on renewable energy. The need for more heating or cooling in these larger homes potentially leads to higher energy consumption. Additionally, as grocery shopping is usually done on the daily route, acquiring food is dependent on the supply in the nearby grocery store. If they do not have climate-friendly options available, it will make it harder to maintain or obtain more climate-friendly diets.

In conclusion, while the research design involves home relocation – a less frequent practice compared to daily routines such as commuting or grocery shopping – the paper acknowledges the varying temporalities of these practices. Nonetheless, it is crucial to emphasise that despite these varying temporalities, the relationship remains consistent both in daily life and during life course transition, such as moving: The home’s location prefigures or strongly affects mobility- and food-related practices. Put differently, this relationship remains before and after relocation, prompting adjustments in daily practices. While the importance of home location may seem more apparent compared to choosing a daily grocery store, these everyday dynamics should not be overlooked, especially in changing towards climate-friendly societies. Overall, the home’s location home plays a crucial role in understanding social life dynamics, extending to the spatial context, highlighting that practices are not confined to the inside or outside of the home; rather, they interact and influence one another within this spatial context.

Research shows that changing one practice will most likely have ripple effects on related practices (Nicolini, 2009; Shove et al, 2012; Spurling et al, 2013). Elaborating on this implies that policy and planning initiatives aimed at intervening in one domain can have far-reaching impacts on other domains. In other words: Policy intervention targeting the housing domain can trigger ripple effects on mobility and food consumption. For instance, policies supporting proximity between homes and workplaces or co-working spaces can enhance climate-friendly modes of transport like biking (Samson and Freudendal-Pedersen, 2022). Or, similar, facilitating access to climate-friendly dietary products in all grocery stores can enhance climate-friendly food practices, regardless of one’s home location. Or if grocery stores have convenient facilities for parking cargo bikes with storage, no car is potentially needed when going grocery shopping. On another note, social relations and time are common social dynamics impacting all these domains, which could act as entryways for changes (Samson and Freudendal-Pedersen, 2022; Christensen et al, 2023; Krog Juvik and Halkier, 2023). Initiatives that require further research, but based on this study, potentially hold great potential, particularly in terms of informing and refining policies across these interconnected consumption domains. This final paragraph underscores that delving into the nuances of everyday life does not obscure the path towards more climate-friendly consumption and societies. Quite the contrary, this perspective on the intricately intertwined practices of everyday life, despite varying temporalities and spatial contexts, emerges as a guiding light for planning and policy initiatives aimed at addressing the challenges of our time.

Funding

This work was supported by Independent Research Fund Denmark under grant number 0217-00108B.

Acknowledgements

A special thanks to the young adults who participated in this research, to Amanda Krog Juvik for collaborating in doing the interviews, and to Malene Freudendal-Pedersen and David Bissell for guidance and support.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

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  • Figure 1:

    Mental mobilities maps. The pink line marks the daily route; the green star marks a grocery store; the blue text marks home; the yellow text marks daily activities (Nanna, autumn 2021 [first]; Silje, autumn 2021 [second]; Jonathan, autumn 2021 [third])

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Büscher, M., Freudendal-Pedersen, M., Kesselring, S. and Grauslund Kristensen, N. (eds) (2020) Handbook of Research Methods and Applications for Mobilities, Northampton: Edward Elgar.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Castelo, A.F.M., Schäfer, M. and Silva, M.E. (2021) Food practices as part of daily routines: A conceptual framework for analysing networks of practices, Appetite, 157: 104978. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2020.104978

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Christensen, T.H., Halkier, B., Gram-Hanssen, K., Freudendal-Pedersen, M. and Krig Juvik, A. (2023) Exploring routinisation and reflexivity in change and reproduction of consumption towards lower climate impact, Journal of Consumer Culture [Preprint]. doi: 10.1177/14695405231207599

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Das, H. (2017) Housing – Transportation – Food Affordability Nexus: A Literature Review, Faculty of Environment Design, Calgary: University of Calgary.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dubois, G., Sovacool, B., Aall, C., Nilsson, M., Barbier, C., Herrmann, A. et al (2019) It starts at home? Climate policies targeting household consumption and behavioral decisions are key to low-carbon futures, Energy Research & Social Science, 52: 14458. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2019.02.001

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Evans, D., McMeekin, A. and Southerton, D. (2012) Sustainable consumption, behaviour change policies and theories of practice, in A. Warde (ed) The Habits of Consumption: COLLeGIUM: Studies Across Disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Helsinki: University of Helsinki (Open Access Book Series of the Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies), pp 11329, http://hdl.handle.net/10138/34226.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Freudendal-Pedersen, M. (2009) Mobility in Daily Life: Between Freedom and Unfreedom, New York: Ashgate.

  • Godin, L. and Sahakian, M. (2018) Cutting through conflicting prescriptions: How guidelines inform ‘healthy and sustainable’ diets in Switzerland, Appetite, 130: 123133. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.08.004

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gram-Hanssen, K., Hansen, A.R. and Mechlenborg, M. (2020) Danish PV prosumers’ time-shifting of energy-consuming everyday practices, Sustainability, 12(10): 4121. doi: 10.3390/su12104121

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Halkier, B. and Jensen, I. (2011) Methodological challenges in using practice theory in consumption research: Examples from a study on handling nutritional contestations of food consumption, Journal of Consumer Culture, 11(1): 10123. doi: 10.1177/1469540510391365

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Huebner, G.M. and Shipworth, D. (2017) All about size? The potential of downsizing in reducing energy demand, Applied Energy, 186: 22633. doi: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.02.066

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hui, A. (2013) Moving with practices: The discontinuous, rhythmic and material mobilities of leisure, Social & Cultural Geography, 14(8): 888908. doi: 10.1080/14649365.2013.827736

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hui, A., Schatzki, T.R. and Shove, E. (eds) (2017) The Nexus of Practices: Connections, Constellations, Practitioners, 1st edn, London and New York: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • IPCC (2023) Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6): Full Report, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jensen, C.L. (2017) Understanding energy efficient lighting as an outcome of dynamics of social practices, Journal of Cleaner Production, 165: 1097106. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.07.213

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Krog Juvik, A. and Halkier, B. (2023) Pathways to more resource-intensive consumption through convenient bundles and complexes of food, mobility and housing practices, Consumption and Society, 3(1): 220. doi: 10.1332/27528499y2023d000000002

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lynch, K. (1960) The Image of the City, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Macrorie, R., Foulds, C. and Hargreaves, T. (2014) Governing and governed by practices: Exploring interventions in low-carbon housing policy and practice, in Y. Strengers and C. Maller (eds) Social Practices, Intervention and Sustainability, 1st edn, London: Routledge, pp 96111.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moberg, K.R., Aall, C., Dorner, F., Reimerson, E., Ceron, J.-P., Sköld, B. et al (2019) Mobility, food and housing: Responsibility, individual consumption and demand-side policies in European deep decarbonisation pathways, Energy Efficiency, 12(2): 497519. doi: 10.1007/s12053-018-9708-7

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Caroline Samson Aalborg University, Denmark

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