Keeping cool: practicing domestic refrigeration and environmental responsibility



Publication Details

Phillips, C. & Waitt, G. (2018). Keeping cool: practicing domestic refrigeration and environmental responsibility. Geographical Research, 56 (1), 68-79.


Domestic refrigerators have become symbols of climate change in energy efficiency campaigns; they are equipment that both permits and prohibits the performance of environmental citizenship. However, little is known about how subjectivities and practices interact, particularly with regard to questions about refrigeration and domestic energy. What might those of us interested in household sustainability learn from the relationships among refrigerators, energy, subjectivities, and practices, and from what these may reveal about environmental responsibility? We draw on data from mixed-method qualitative research conducted with 28 households in Wollongong, Australia, and frame the analysis in terms of social practice theory, with additional attention to subjectivity. This framing helps us develop thinking about how refrigeration is done and consider whether and how things become waste by paying closer attention to the spatial imperatives underpinning these practices. It also assists us in considering how the ongoing relationships of social and material aspects of refrigeration co-constitute a range of subjectivities. Further, our analysis advances discussions on how household practices and identities relate to public campaigns about environmental responsibility, particularly as the latter is constructed in terms of 'energy efficiency'.

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