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The environmental implications of multigenerational living: Are larger households also greener households?

Chapter


Abstract


  • Multigenerational family households rarely form out of environmental concern -

    or an intentional desire to be 'green'. More typically, they form because of financial

    pressures, caring responsibi1ities or to accommodate disruptions in extended

    families such as divorce or unemployment. Yet, they offer

    important, innate opportunities to reduce resource consumption. On a per capita

    basis, household size is inversely related to resource consumption and waste

    production. By housing more family members under one roof,

    multigenerational family living presents unheralded opportunities to save energy,

    water, building materials and land. Our ethnographic research with multigenerational

    family households in Wollongong, in the Illawarra region of southeastern

    Australia, explored the ways in which resources are consumed and shared in their

    rhythms of everyday life. These families inadvertently reduced their consumption

    of material resources by sharing space and everyday objects: white goods,

    furniture, cooking equipment, electronics, clothing, books, food, swimming pools

    and more. Although these sharing practices were not intentionally ‘green', they

    nonetheless obviated the need for additional purchases to be made.

    At the same time, these households were sites of environmental debate and intergenerational leaming.

    01der generations - while not identifying as environmentalists

    - sought to instil values of thrift among their younger relatives. They wanted

    to pass their inadvertent - or unintentional - sustainabilities onto their children

    and grandchildren. The term 'inadvertent sustainabilities' refers to practices not

    conceived with sustainability in mind, but which are environmentally beneficial

    nonetheless. Some younger

    household members, for their part, made persistent attempts to counter their parents' and grandparents' climate change skepticism, and to promote intentionally

    sustainable practices and purchases. Multigenerational family households thus

    provide fertile ground for the frugal (inadvertently 'green') practices and skills of

    older generations, and the intentional environmentalism of younger generations,

    to collide and coalesce - with profound implications for everyday domestic life.

    Throughout this chapter, we follow Blunt (2005) and Reid et al. (2010) in defining

    a household as a social unit occupying a single place or space of residence (the

    dwelling). Our definition of multigenerational family households is expansive. It

    includes adult children who have remained in - or returned to -the parental home

    (with or without their own spouse and children), and elderly parents living with

    one or more adult children. Additional relatives (whether aunts, uncles, grandparents

    or cousins) may be‘added on' to an existing nuclear family unit. Each of

    these household configurations brings together related individuals in a manner

    distinct from single-parent or nuclear family living arrangements that involve one

    or more parents and their dependent child(ren).

    In so doing, they decrease the overall number of dwellings required to house an

    equivalent number of people.

    In the remainder of this chapter, we provide detail around the innate environmental

    benefits of larger households, before positioning our study within a broad

    body of cultural environmental research at the household scale. After outlining

    our research methods, we present empirical evidence of two types of sharing that

    take place in multigenerational family households - of space and material objects

    and more important, of ideas, skills and knowledge. Multigenerational family

    households engender opportunities to be inadvertently and deliberately ‘green'.

    We conclude by taking our research findings to a further, speculative, step: in a

    climate-changing world, these households also hold important and unexplored

    potential for coping with environmental calamities.

Publication Date


  • 2017

Citation


  • Klocker, N., Gibson, C. & Borger, E. (2017). The environmental implications of multigenerational living: Are larger households also greener households?. In E. Liu & H. Easthope (Eds.), Multigenerational Family Living: Evidence and Policy Implications from Australia (pp. 160-177). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

International Standard Book Number (isbn) 13


  • 9781472476692

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-85027180514

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/sspapers/3182

Book Title


  • Multigenerational Family Living: Evidence and Policy Implications from Australia

Start Page


  • 160

End Page


  • 177

Place Of Publication


  • Abingdon, United Kingdom

Abstract


  • Multigenerational family households rarely form out of environmental concern -

    or an intentional desire to be 'green'. More typically, they form because of financial

    pressures, caring responsibi1ities or to accommodate disruptions in extended

    families such as divorce or unemployment. Yet, they offer

    important, innate opportunities to reduce resource consumption. On a per capita

    basis, household size is inversely related to resource consumption and waste

    production. By housing more family members under one roof,

    multigenerational family living presents unheralded opportunities to save energy,

    water, building materials and land. Our ethnographic research with multigenerational

    family households in Wollongong, in the Illawarra region of southeastern

    Australia, explored the ways in which resources are consumed and shared in their

    rhythms of everyday life. These families inadvertently reduced their consumption

    of material resources by sharing space and everyday objects: white goods,

    furniture, cooking equipment, electronics, clothing, books, food, swimming pools

    and more. Although these sharing practices were not intentionally ‘green', they

    nonetheless obviated the need for additional purchases to be made.

    At the same time, these households were sites of environmental debate and intergenerational leaming.

    01der generations - while not identifying as environmentalists

    - sought to instil values of thrift among their younger relatives. They wanted

    to pass their inadvertent - or unintentional - sustainabilities onto their children

    and grandchildren. The term 'inadvertent sustainabilities' refers to practices not

    conceived with sustainability in mind, but which are environmentally beneficial

    nonetheless. Some younger

    household members, for their part, made persistent attempts to counter their parents' and grandparents' climate change skepticism, and to promote intentionally

    sustainable practices and purchases. Multigenerational family households thus

    provide fertile ground for the frugal (inadvertently 'green') practices and skills of

    older generations, and the intentional environmentalism of younger generations,

    to collide and coalesce - with profound implications for everyday domestic life.

    Throughout this chapter, we follow Blunt (2005) and Reid et al. (2010) in defining

    a household as a social unit occupying a single place or space of residence (the

    dwelling). Our definition of multigenerational family households is expansive. It

    includes adult children who have remained in - or returned to -the parental home

    (with or without their own spouse and children), and elderly parents living with

    one or more adult children. Additional relatives (whether aunts, uncles, grandparents

    or cousins) may be‘added on' to an existing nuclear family unit. Each of

    these household configurations brings together related individuals in a manner

    distinct from single-parent or nuclear family living arrangements that involve one

    or more parents and their dependent child(ren).

    In so doing, they decrease the overall number of dwellings required to house an

    equivalent number of people.

    In the remainder of this chapter, we provide detail around the innate environmental

    benefits of larger households, before positioning our study within a broad

    body of cultural environmental research at the household scale. After outlining

    our research methods, we present empirical evidence of two types of sharing that

    take place in multigenerational family households - of space and material objects

    and more important, of ideas, skills and knowledge. Multigenerational family

    households engender opportunities to be inadvertently and deliberately ‘green'.

    We conclude by taking our research findings to a further, speculative, step: in a

    climate-changing world, these households also hold important and unexplored

    potential for coping with environmental calamities.

Publication Date


  • 2017

Citation


  • Klocker, N., Gibson, C. & Borger, E. (2017). The environmental implications of multigenerational living: Are larger households also greener households?. In E. Liu & H. Easthope (Eds.), Multigenerational Family Living: Evidence and Policy Implications from Australia (pp. 160-177). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

International Standard Book Number (isbn) 13


  • 9781472476692

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-85027180514

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/sspapers/3182

Book Title


  • Multigenerational Family Living: Evidence and Policy Implications from Australia

Start Page


  • 160

End Page


  • 177

Place Of Publication


  • Abingdon, United Kingdom