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19th European Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production – Circular Europe for Sustainability: Design, Production and Consumption

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Changing eating practices towards vegan nutrition– A practice-theoretical framework

Currently, there is a growing global demand for more sustainable food consumption by changing dietary patterns. Many studies have shown the importance of diets and eating habits in promoting human health but also regarding sustainability impacts of the food sector, as e.g. CO2-emissions, water and soil pollution. A shift to a vegan diet takes up health issues and ethical/political motivations as well as a broad range of ecological aspects. These issues are especially important in those societies, which are rooted in a strong meat eating culture. Through the lens of social practice theories, we consider the emergence of vegan eating as a compound practice related to sustainable food consumption. Eating practices as daily routines are embedded in a network of practices (e.g. purchasing and preparing food, going to work, meeting friends) and subject to social negotiation processes in private and work contexts. Based on these arguments, the paper aims to explore how a change in food consumption patterns towards veganism is performed focusing on the interconnections within and between practices in and outside home (such as shopping, cooking, dining out, meeting with friends, leisure activities etc.). By applying literature research, explorative interviews and the combination of different social practices approaches, this article provides a conceptual framework to get a deeper and more holistic overview of how changes in eating practices require a reconfiguration of other related practices in daily routines. We argue that changing the meaning (more healthy, ethical or sustainable food consumption) is closely linked to the other practice elements such as competence (e.g. how to recognize and where to purchase vegan food and how to prepare vegan meals) and material elements (e.g. accessibility of vegan food for eating at home and outside home). More than that, beyond the change in eating practices, other directly and indirectly related practices are also affected since eating represents a compound practice including different dimensions of performance such as: event/occasions, food-menu-dishes, and incorporation- bodily techniques. A shift to vegan eating practices therefore can only be stabilized if a stable configuration of the broader network of practices can be accomplished. By using the practice elements presented by Shove et al. (2012) (i.e., meaning, material and competence) in combination with the conceptual ideas of Warde (2013) which includes the intersection of four integrative practices (supplying of food, cooking, organization of meal occasion, aesthetic judgments of taste), the conceptual framework provides a guideline to analyze the transition towards veganism and the related networks of practices empirically. The framework helps to understand why a change in routinized consumption patterns is rather demanding and to gain insights in supporting and hindering factors for this transition which goes far beyond an individual change of behavior.

Arícia Castelo
University of Fortaleza

Martina Schäfer
Technische Universität Berlin

Minelle Silva
University of Fortaleza


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