Engaging policy understandings of kitchen practices and how they can change
This project will apply a practice theory approach to a range of policy initiatives in the water, energy and food nexus. It focuses on consumption practices in UK households and specifically in their kitchens.
Much recent work on the water-energy-food nexus has focused on interdependencies in the supply of these resource systems. Here, we focus on how the demand for these resources and their associated service infrastructures is constituted. The home kitchen is a prime site for the practices that result in domestic demand for water-energy-food services, often in ways which reveal their interdependencies and trade-offs.
Led by Dr Matt Watson, University of Sheffield,
- Dr Alison Browne, Department of Geography and Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester
- Dr David Evans, Department of Sociology and Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester
- Dr Liz Sharp, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, University of Sheffield
- Food Standards Agency
The following questions provide the structure for this project:
1. How does current research into kitchen practices shed distinctive light on the interdependencies of water, energy and food in the home?
2. In what ways are such practices currently understood and acted upon in water-energy-food policy?
3. What are the implications for sustainability policy of putting ‘practices’ and ‘nexus thinking’ as a central focus in reworking stakeholder approaches to engender change in domestic practices?
Taking a transdisciplinary approach the project will focus upon topics identified between researchers and policy partners. To date, discussions with our policy partners have revealed three candidate topics which cross cut two or more of the domains of the nexus including:
- Fitting smart appliances into kitchen practices as part of energy demand side response – e.g. food safety anxieties around smart fridges and freezers.
- Trade-offs between ensuring food safety and concerns for conserving energy and water and minimising waste.
- Tackling the relationships between cooking, eating, cleaning and disposal that result in the problems of food, oil and grease in waste water management.
Understanding how people’s water-energy-food-related practices are embedded in the routines and rhythms of their everyday lives and the infrastructures that support their delivery offers an alternative approach to standard behaviour change initiatives which focus too much on individual behaviour.
Engagement with our partners around specific areas of policy concern will give critical edge to our synthesis of existing research, including that from members of the project and advisory teams, on kitchen practices in relation to food, energy and water.
The application of a ‘nexus thinking’ approach will enable a critical synthesis of existing data and analysis of practices in the kitchen, which in combination with in-depth policy engagement will realise new understandings of the domestic nexus, and identify new ways of conceptualising intervention and processes of change for water-energy-food demand in
Through close engagement with partner organisations on defined agendas for change, the project will seek to understand how practice approaches could be effectively worked in to policy making about the kitchen.
Policy interventions necessarily involve particular (usually implicit) understandings about ‘consumers’ and about what goes on in kitchens. Such understandings are themselves shaped by the routines and practices comprising policy institutions. To effectively translate existing kitchen practices research to be relevant to our partners’ policy concerns requires a dual focus on understanding domestic practices and how practice-based research can be translated into effective policies.
Image credit: with thanks to Barney Moss on Flickr.