*Ethnography is a relatively new research method which involves a researcher spending 3-4 days (morning to dusk) with participants, recording their everyday lives using a small and inobtrusive digital video camera. On the final day, participants are shown clips from the filming and asked to describe their actions and the reasoning behind them.
This ‘fly on the wall’ process aims to provide a better understanding of daily life, and show actions taken and choices made. It has advantages over more typical market research, in that the latter asks people what they would do, or solicits their views in theory, while ethnography assesses what they actually do, and why.
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Living Smarter is a novel research project which uses ethnography* to examine UK household behaviour in order to highlight the environmental impacts of everyday living.
Since its formation in 1974, INCPEN has commissioned a large number of independent scientific and statistical studies into the environmental and social impacts associated with the supply chain in general and packaging in particular. However those studies have largely been targeted at an expert audience. With this project, we aimed to go one step further and put a human face on the numbers, to make our findings more accessible to ordinary consumers. The numbers underpinning Living Smarter are based on UK Government statistics on household expenditure and the detailed academic study together with a summary document are available on our website.
The project filmed six different types of household going about their daily lives to provide anecdotal, real life examples of how the number of inhabitants and their purchasing behaviour and lifestyles impact on the resources they use and the waste they generate. The households were selected to illustrate typical households, but are not a representative sample.
Everything we do uses resources and has an environmental impact. However, with the right information it may be possible for us to adapt our behaviour, reduce our consumption, create less waste and save money – while still enjoying the same quality of life.