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Women's Work

Women’s Work

AN ECO-FEMINIST APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN
2017

Women spend an average of 260 minutes on unpaid domestic labor daily (as compared to 80 minutes for men)—an imbalance that grows more pronounced in developing nations. These daily tasks and accompanying decisions (such as cooking, cleaning, and caretaking) are often overlooked and undervalued in societies worldwide; however, what we choose to eat, how we clean our homes, and the lessons we teach our children can have significant impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, infrastructure performance, and overall environmental health and sustainability. The full import of domestic decisions on sustainability is evidenced in studies on the relationship between diet and climate change, which have demonstrated that the action with the single greatest impact on our environmental footprint is to eliminate beef from our diet, more so than reducing vehicle miles traveled or even long-distance flights. Such findings demonstrate the power of an informed approach to daily “housekeeping.”

 
Image: Jo Hanson, Art That’s Sweeping the City, 1980. Photograph by Jim Weeks. Courtesy of Dr. Leni V Reeves and Zack Schlesinger. This research was a collaborative project with faculty from UC Davis and Cal Poly, SLO.

Image: Jo Hanson, Art That’s Sweeping the City, 1980. Photograph by Jim Weeks. Courtesy of Dr. Leni V Reeves and Zack Schlesinger. This research was a collaborative project with faculty from UC Davis and Cal Poly, SLO.

In this research we asked the following questions:

How would our definition of sustainability change if seen through a lens of ecofeminist theory?

What precedents exist for addressing sustainability in the built environment through domestic practice?

And lastly, what implications might these theories and precedents have on contemporary practice?

We conducted a literature review and examined the works of prominent ecofeminists for this study.

Key findings:

The key findings for this research focus on the implications of contemporary practice; the practice must expand their focus beyond innovative technologies but also on process. The areas for innovation lie in the realms of process and …

  • Public engagement: By engaging community members in the design process, environmental designers simultaneously create opportunities for design to be informed by the patterns and habits of everyday life and to educate the public about the potential for more sustainable patterns and habits. public engagement, maintenance and monitoring, and communications.

  • Monitoring and maintenance: Likewise, this model of sustainable design positions the ongoing maintenance of the environment as an integral element of the overall ecosystem.

  • Communication: The writers and artists surveyed here recognized that the innumerable daily actions of anyone caring for their home, their family, or themselves were acts of maintenance.

Click here for article published in Avery Review (2017)