Environmental leapfrogging and everyday climate cultures: sustainable water consumption in the Global South

  • David M. EvansEmail author
  • Alison L. Browne
  • Ilse A. Gortemaker


The pursuit of ‘everyday climate cultures’ can mean many things, including reductions in the resource intensity of everyday life. This paper considers efforts to influence current and future patterns of water use in the Global South. This is a significant challenge for environmental policy and for companies that seek to reduce environmental impacts during the use phase of their products. Challenges such as these often give way to debates about the potential for developing countries to bypass resource intensive phases of development and ‘leapfrog’ directly to more sustainable pathways. This article contributes to the literature on environmental leapfrogging by applying social practice theory to better understand the significance of users and ‘lifestyles’. Drawing on a research collaboration with Unilever—involving a rapid review of relevant evidence—the analysis considers mobile (cell) phones as an exemplar of ‘user-led leapfrogging’. A number of lessons are drawn out of this case study that inform thinking about the task of leapfrogging to more sustainable patterns of water use in the Global South. Attention is paid to the adoption and appropriation of products, the broader societal impacts of new technologies, and alternatives to the logic of efficiency. Crucially, it is argued that technologies are limited in their ability to steer processes of positive change and that attention must be paid to existing cultural patterns, ways of doing things, and social structures. The conclusion reflects critically on the concept of environmental leapfrogging, the merits and limitations of social practice theory, and the broader implications of the analysis for understanding everyday climate cultures.



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. Evans
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alison L. Browne
    • 2
  • Ilse A. Gortemaker
    • 3
  1. 1.University of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.University of ManchesterManchesterUK
  3. 3.Unilever R&D VlaardingenVlaardingenthe Netherlands

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