Households in sustainability transitions and urban experiments

Dr Ruth Lane1, Professor Annica Kronsell2

1Monash University, Clayton,, Australia

2University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg,, Sweden


Households are under studied and under-theorised in sustainability transitions. They have mainly been understood as users of technology in research that has strongly focused on technological change involving collaborations between government and industry actors (Schot et al. 2016). This narrow framing is inadequate for understanding their broader potential to contribute to sustainability transitions. Households are significant, not just as sites where technologies and resources are used, but as sites of social learning, practical innovation and resourcefulness. Some forms of learning connected with deep structured social change only occur in households. We argue that rather than viewing households only in terms of being recipients of policy or users of green technology, it could be more useful to consider households as important sites for learning and experimentation with potential to identify new transitions pathways to be supported by government policy and business practices. To progress these ideas, we review key bodies of social science scholarship that engage with the agentic capacity of households to advance a conceptual framework that foregrounds the household as a key site for experimentation in sustainability transitions and innovation.


Ruth’s current research focuses on geographies of waste, recycling and reuse at the interlinked scales of household, city and nation. She teaches in Human Geography in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.


The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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