Scientific article

Understanding household food metabolism: relating micro-level material flow analysis to consumption practices

Published inJournal of Cleaner Production, vol. 125, p. 44-55
Publication date2016

Public and private food consumption is responsible for significant environmental impacts, resulting in numerous studies that highlight the problem and reveal its magnitude at global and national scales. Drawing on a high level of data aggregation and focussing on individual choices and attitudes, current accounts stop short of grappling with the underlying complexity of the phenomenon. In this paper, we explore the conceptual value and methodological feasibility of linking Material Flow Analysis (MFA) and Social Practice Theory (SPT) to apprehend household food consumption dynamics. We develop and pilot a “Practice-extended MFA” framework among selected households in Bangalore, India. While MFA modelling serves to describe and quantify all food consumption processes and related flows at the microlevel, SPT is applied to investigate how individual, technological and sociological aspects of consumption practices converge towards household food “metabolic profiles”. The results revealed a complex system of interactions between food provisioning, storage and management practices, as well as socio-cultural norms. The paper concludes by emphasizing the contribution of a reflective stance between household metabolisms and consumption practices revealing not only what and how much food is consumed and wasted, but why and in what way.

  • Household consumption
  • Material flow analysis
  • Food
  • Social practices
  • Metabolism
  • Conceptual framework
Citation (ISO format)
LERAY, Loïc, SAHAKIAN, Marlyne, ERKMAN, Suren. Understanding household food metabolism: relating micro-level material flow analysis to consumption practices. In: Journal of Cleaner Production, 2016, vol. 125, p. 44–55. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.03.055
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0959-6526

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