Symbolic Meanings of High and Low Impact Daily Consumption Practices in Different Cultures

Güliz Ger, Harold Wilhite, Bente Halkier, Jeppe Læssøe, Inge Røpke, Mirjam Irene Godskesen

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    Daily consumption practices are not only practical doings. They also express symbolic meanings; social signals by which we shape our identity, confirm or challenge cultural conventions and construct images of the good life. The symbolic meanings are collectively shared and negotiated. They influence our choices and practices whether it is by motivating or impeding them. In this study we will look at the symbolic meanings of high and low environmental impact consumption practices. In order to create desirable social markers for environmentally-friendly practices and/or to change high impact practices, we need to understand emergent practices and their existing cultural meanings. Thus we have chosen three fields of daily consumption practices - food consumption, transport and hygiene - and sorted out the relatively environmentally friendly (low impact) and the relatively environmentally-nonfriendly (high impact) practices. For each of them we have explored their symbolic aspects in different cultures. For one thing, this comparison exposes that the same practice allows very different symbolic meanings. Secondly, it clarifies the relevance of the socio-cultural context as regards the shaping of the symbolic meanings of high and low consumption practices, and the possibilities for influencing them. By focusing on the ambivalences inherent in a practice within the particular historical trajectory of a culture it is possible to derive attractive symbols and attach them to low environmental impact practices.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationConsumption, Everyday Life and Sustainability
    Place of PublicationLancaster
    PublisherSSEC-Lancaster University
    Publication date1998
    Publication statusPublished - 1998

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