Sustainability: A Challenge for Domestic Households in Daily Life

By Leicht-Eckardt, Elisabeth | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Sustainability: A Challenge for Domestic Households in Daily Life


Leicht-Eckardt, Elisabeth, Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Preliminary note

In Germany, Home Economics and Nutritional Sciences have existed as study programs since the 1960s; originally, they were established at Agricultural Faculties of Research Universities. The program is still called Oecotrophologie, based on the Greek words "oikos" (household), "trophos" (nutrition) and "logos" (science). Meanwhile, Universities of Applied Sciences have joined, and all in all round about 2,000 Home Economists and Nutritional Scientists graduate every year. By now all study programs offer Bachelor- and Master-degrees and do have their individual profiles. The University of Applied Sciences Osnabruck* is the only course in German-speaking countries relating Home Economics to Agricultural Sciences and focussing ecology and the development in rural areas (Leicht-Eckardt 2000a). There is cooperation between the Universities of Applied Sciences Osnabruck (Lower Saxony) und Munster (Northrhine-Westfalia), offering a Master course in "Sustainable Services and Food Economy", starting 2008. The WABE-Centre as a unique model at least in Western Europe is a newly built unit for research at the Faculty of Agriculture and Landscape Architecture in Osnabruck and a place for cheese production and consumer events; scientifically and practically, the centre is concerned with topics related to the food chain, ranging from production to waste management (Leicht-Eckardt, 2004).

Home Economics on a practical and scientific level in Germany are represented in various organisations, associations and private and public institutions which all are members of the German Society for Home Economics (dgh). On an international level, 1,300 individual members and organizations as well as 58 nationwide home economic societies are combined in one parent organization, called International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE). It has existed for more than 100 years, and--as an NGO--enjoys accreditation at the United Nations, UNESCO, FAO and WHO. The main challenge for the IFHE was and is to clarify impending strategic and organisational questions with a view to its ability to survive in the future and to take objective-oriented decisions on Federation politics (see www.ifhe.org). Actually, a new IFHE-Committee "household technology and sustainability" was founded.

1. The role of domestic households: Consumption and Production

Sustainability according to the definition of the United Nations ought to be a governing principle of all areas of consumption and production for everybody, especially in the face of climate change. Still, many people are not aware of the problem, or just do not act according to their knowledge. Often, scientists just have a scientific approach to what people should do regarding sustainability, but do not apply their principles to their personal way of life, not being aware of their individual responsibility as leaders in societies: on the one hand, they try to convince people of the seriousness of the actual climate situation, and on the other hand, they are making excuses (mostly referring to their lack of time) for unsustainable personal decisions (as other people could do as well).

Nearly everybody lives in a private household. The appearance of domestic households in the Western world is the background of this statement. Domestic housheholds are economic and social units aiming to fulfil their members' needs and requirements in accordance to resources available. Domestic households scaffold human society. In order to bring forward domestic households towards sustainability in their daily consumption and production, it is necessary to encourage household members to act according to their economic, ecological and social means. Households are producers as well as consumers of goods and services. Goods for example could be meals, clean floors or sewed stockings, services could be taking care for a sick person or gardening. Supply can take place inside and outside of households, e.

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