The average consumer's 'Top 10' environmental impacts

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Studio Porcelijn and Think Big Act Now are working on a book designed to inform consumers and policy-makers clearly and graphically about the direct and indirect environmental impact of everyday life. CE Delft has been asked to support this project by drawing up a ‘Top 10’ of the environmental impacts associated with a Dutch individual’s average annual consumption. In doing so, we consider both the visible impacts (electricity use; food consumption) and the hidden impacts (energy consumption during production; product transport). We consider not only activities over which consumers have an influence (e.g. kilometres flown) but also aspects over which consumers have no direct influence (dwelling construction; road-building; food wastage in the supply chain). One interesting result of this analysis is that purchase of consumer goods (in this study referred to as ‘stuff’) and meat consumption have a far greater environmental impact than the other categories, which for many people will probably come as a surprise. In the experience of CE Delft’s Supply Chain Analysis sector, most people associate environmental impact mainly with energy consumption, transport and sometimes waste and packaging, but have little notion of the major impacts of food (and particularly meat), products and materials (used in homes and roads, for example) and clothing. This brief report explains how these results were calculated.

Authors CE

Geert Bergsma
Lonneke de Graaff

Delft, April 2016