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Energy Reduction Through a Deeper Understanding of Household Consumption

Staying Cool in Metro Manila


Address correspondence to:
Marlyne D. Sahakian
The Graduate Institute of International
and Development Studies
20 rue Rothschild, 1202,
Geneva, Switzerland


This article proposes a multidisciplinary and systemic approach to sustainable consumption that combines environmental considerations of energy usage from a life cycle perspective with a social understanding of consumption grounded in economic anthropology. The goal is to understand both consumption patterns and drivers, with a focus on household energy used for cooling in the metropolitan region of Manila in the Philippines. For different socioeconomic groups, cooling devices also deliver social and cultural services, such as socializing or adhering to Western fashion trends. This article argues for the need to address these aspects if reductions in household energy usage are to become possible. The limits of individual-choice theories are rendered apparent, with examples of how institutional and structural conditions lock in consumption patterns and restrict household choices. The notion that emerging economies might be able to “leapfrog” over the environmental errors of more industrialized countries is also raised and critiqued.

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