Green tenants: practicing a sustainability ethics for the rental housing sector

Jane Palmer*, Lesley Instone, Kathleen J. Mee, Miriam Williams, Nicola Vaughan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The shift towards social, government and corporate ethics which value environmental sustainability has also embraced householders in a plethora of educational guides, policies, regulations and consumer information about green home improvements, purchasing choices and household practices. In this paper, we make the claim that the rental housing sector, and in particular the private rental sector, has yet to participate, structurally, culturally and materially, in this shift to an ethics of sustainability. We argue, however, that even on such otherwise arid ground, an alternative ethic is developing, a sustainability ethic practiced by green tenants whose activities inside and outside their homes go beyond the considerable material constraints of their dwellings and incomes, and beyond the purely transactional utility of the rental contract. These activities, relational, interconnected and resilient, offer both glimpses of a greening rental housing sector, and a clearer picture of the areas where work remains to be done. Based on a research study, we conducted of the rental sector in regional Australia, and in particular of the everyday sustainability practices of tenants, we suggest that these activities are a practice-based form of care for the world, in many ways similar to Maria Puig de la Bellacasa's practice-based, human-decentred ethics which she suggests is exemplified in the permaculture movement. The stories of the tenants we interviewed for our study also point the way to other changes which are needed to enable a practice-based sustainability ethic to flourish across the rental housing sector as a whole.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-939
Number of pages17
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • environmental ethics
  • ethical investment
  • household practices
  • rental housing
  • sustainability


Dive into the research topics of 'Green tenants: practicing a sustainability ethics for the rental housing sector'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this