8 May 2024

Climate crisis: New project explores how flexible our eating habits are


Researchers from the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Sociology will study the eating habits of four generations and how they relate to environmental and climate issues. The project is funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark.

Photo: Cecilie Rubow
Photo: Cecilie Rubow

Among the consumption habits in Denmark, food is one of the top carbon emitters with a significant climate footprint. But experience has also shown that the vast majority of Danes find it difficult to change their eating habits in a more climate-friendly direction, for example by eating less meat.

A new joint project at the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Sociology will now investigate how the eating habits of different population groups are formed, and what might change them. This is thanks to a DKK 6.2 million grant from the Independent Research Fund of Denmark (DFF) for the project entitled 'The crisis of habits and new figurations of food' (HABITS).

"We are looking at our eating habits to investigate their potential flexibility in a time of ecological crisis. But also to examine what habits actually are and, when it comes to food, how eating habits are linked to the environment and climate," says Associate Professor Cecilie Rubow, Department of Anthropology.

She will lead the new project with Professor Bente Halkier from the Department of Sociology who has previously conducted several research projects focusing on everyday life, including eating habits.

In the new project, the researchers will study the eating habits of four generations. Through interviews and other fieldwork, four sub-projects will shed light on:

  • Radical changes of food habits among climate activists. The focus will be on how activists in their 20s respond to ecological crises by cultivating new connections to plants, animals and other materials.
  • Responsible food habits in families with pre-school children. The sub-project will shed light on how parents with young children balance issues of proper nutrition and good eating habits with ethical issues such as food quality and CO2 emissions.
  • Food habits of empty nesters. This part explores the resistance to change in a generation that has grown up in a period of rapid economic growth and a surge in meat consumption.
  • Thrifty food work and sustainability among pensioners. The sub-project examines the role of scarcity habits of retired Danes who belong to the post-war generation. A generation that has experienced public restrictions on food supply as well as restrictions on food provision and eating due to economic crisis.

The aim of the project is not only to disseminate the work of the project through a series of academic articles, but also to target a wider audience. Among other things, the project will work with a photographer and a graphic designer to translate the key ethnographic analyses and conclusions into a series of visual products.

"It is important to find out how the concrete frameworks, actions and thoughts contribute to the way we buy, prepare and consume food – and then to communicate this," says Bente Halkier.

The project, which also includes a postdoctoral position and PhD students, will run until the end of 2027.

Read also the DFF press release: Independent research flourishes with 52 new excellent research projects


Cecilie Rubow
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
Email: cecilie.rubow@anthro.ku.dk
Phone: +45 35 32 35 68

Bente Halkier
Professor, Department of Sociology
Email: beh@soc.ku.dk
Phone: +45 35 33 50 44

Søren Bang
Faculty of Social Sciences
Email: sba@samf.ku.dk
Mobile: +45 29 21 09 73


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