Caught Between the Imperatives of Sustainability and Good Parenting: Eco-Conscious Parenting in the Waterloo Region
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Current levels of consumption in modern society are at odds with sustaining our planet, yet not sustaining the planet is a threat to our children and future generations. Eco-conscious parents are aware of environmental threats and must navigate tensions that arise from attempting to be “good” parents from within consumer society on the one hand and being environmentally responsible on the other. What explains the ways in which parents make contradictory choices when faced with parenting options that diverge from their sustainability aims? This question is explored through data gathered from 55 potentially true statements to participants in 20 interviews and 54 surveys. The data collected paints a picture full of trade-offs and negotiations that eco-aware parents and caregivers living in the Waterloo Region must navigate. The data identifies many of the tensions that are faced, some of the opportunities created and defines some characteristics of eco-conscious parents in the Waterloo Region. We also see from the data that eco-conscious parenting operates within a large spectrum with parents making choices that both support and undermine sustainability to varying degrees, in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. These tensions result in both the creation of environmentally positive actions made by eco-conscious parents (like community gardens and community bulk fruit buying initiatives) and lifestyles riddled with negative ecological impacts (examples from the data include reliance on a vehicle and an industrial food system). Raising children also typically results in greater consumption within families because children’s needs rapidly grow, especially in the early years, thus necessitating new clothing, new toys, and etc. As a result, we are currently living in an eco-social dilemma. One where modern consumption is robbing our children of their futures, yet simultaneously giving them lives with modern conveniences. The introduction sets the stage for the ecological reality eco-conscious parent’s face, often regardless of their efforts to limit their negative ecological impact. The literature review draws on a range of diverse literature and theoretical frameworks in order to provide a foundation of analysis regarding the origins and drivers of consumption, the intentional moulding of consumers, parental influences on materialism and the concept of honouring the world’s children as a framework for sustainability.
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