Standby Consumption in Households Analyzed With a Practice Theory Approach


Address correspondence to
Kirsten Gram-Hanssen, Ph.D., Senior
Danish Building Research Institute,
Aalborg University
Dr. Neergaards Vej 15
DK-2970 Hørsholm, Denmark


This article focuses on the energy consumption of households and the question of how daily routines can be changed in a more sustainable direction. It discusses different theoretical approaches with which to understand consumer behavior and introduces practice theory that emphasizes sociotechnical structures as the basis for analyzing stability of consumer practices and opportunities for change. Through analysis of ten in-depth interviews with families participating in a project aimed at reducing standby consumption, it is shown how technological configurations, everyday life routines, knowledge, and motivation constitute the practice and also structure the possibilities for change. The article concludes by contending that a conception of human behavior that is both less rational and less individualistic is needed to understand stability and change of households’ energy consumption behavior.