Top 10 environmental footprint of the average Dutch consumer – update

Based on a wealth of data, CE Delft has estimated as accurately as possible the annual environmental footprint of the average Dutch consumer, yielding a ‘Top Ten’ of contributing products and activities for the average individual in the Netherlands. The first estimate, from 2016, was updated in 2018 and has now been updated once again for 2020.

With these ‘Top Ten’ calculations, CE Delft has contributed to two books published by Studio Babette Porcelijn and Think Big Act Now (TBAN). The 2020 publication ‘EcoPositief in vijf stappen – Doeboek voor een duurzaam dagelijks leven’ [‘Five steps towards eco-positivity – Handbook for sustainable everyday life’] was the sequel to ‘De Verborgen Impact’ [‘The Hidden Impact’], published in 2016. Both books inform readers about the direct and indirect environmental impact of everyday life.

In calculating the Top Ten we consider both the ‘visible’ level (electricity consumption; food consumption) and the ‘hidden’ level (energy used in manufacturing; shipping of products), taking in activities over which consumers have personal influence (amount of air travel) as well as those over which they have no direct control (housing construction; road construction; supply-chain food wastage).

Based on CE Delft’s data, TBAN has developed a tool with which consumers can estimate their own environmental footprint relative to ‘the average consumer’. As the tool needs to estimate the specific impact based on individual consumption and behaviour, CE Delft has developed a more detailed breakdown of six key categories:

  1. ‘Stuff’
  2. Food & beverages
  3. Mobility
  4. Living space
  5. Textiles & clothing
  6. Internet & streaming

Once again, CE Delft reviewed the available data and made bottom-up rather than top-down calculations, i.e. we did not look at the average impact of e.g. food in the Netherlands (top-down), but calculated the precise per-kilogram impact of all kinds of individual food items (bottom-up). The information in this report is structured for use in the tool that non-average consumers can use to estimate their individual footprint (

While the data in this report provides a more detailed picture than the original Top Ten, the results provide no more than an indication, based in part on estimates and assumptions.