Research on the intersection between environmental change and international migration has tended to focus on causes over consequences, for example, by recognising climate change as a driver of migration from the developing South to the industrialised North. Significantly less attention has been given to the cultural dimensions of adapting to climate change and environmental degradation at a time when many ‘first world’ cities are becoming more heterogeneous. This means that little is known about how culturally-specific notions of sustainability, premised on reducing the impacts of Western over-consumption, are understood by immigrants to global North cities.
In this presentation we discuss the findings of mixed-methods research that explored the environmentally significant household practices of 60 Somali immigrants living in Moss Side, Manchester, with equal participation from men and women. Discussions of practices focused on food acquisition and preparation, use of water and energy and following council-regulated recycling systems. Set against ambitious local government plans for cleaning and greening the city, we discuss the way participants understand sustainability, how ideas around sustainability correspond to their past and present experiences of household resource use in Somalia and the UK, how culture and religious norms shape household practices, and gendered and generational differences in participants’ responses to policy messages about household sustainability.
Our conclusions make a timely contribution to academic and policy discussions of household sustainability. We contend that the perspectives and practices of immigrants - a population traditionally overlooked in household sustainability research - can make important contributions to more inclusive sustainability governance.