Keywords: consumption, industrial metabolism, material flows, dematerialisation, Environmental Kuznet', s Curve, EKC, industrial ecology, Finalnd, eco-efficiency, sustainability, sustainable development, economic growth, household materials
Impacts of increasing consumption on material flows over time: empirical results from Finland 1970-2005
Consumption is one of the main driving forces contributing to global environmental challenges. Industrial Ecology (IE) and Eco-Efficiency (EE) imply that excessive materials and energy flows contribute to unsustainable amounts of waste and emissions, which result in environmental degradation beyond nature's ability to regenerate and survive. This article analyses whether the consumption of individual consumers has become more eco-efficient and sustainable in Finland. Firstly, the conclusions indicate that Finnish economy is indeed very natural-resource intensive. However, as a large proportion of exports is eliminated, domestic consumption figures turn out to be lower than expected. Secondly, per capita consumption has increased hand in hand with economic growth over time. Thirdly, there exist shifts from basic needs to more luxurious commodities. Fourthly, the observed dematerialisation of Finnish household materials consumption during the 2000s gives empirical evidence that the Environmental Kuznet's Curve (EKC) assumptions can hold with respect to household materials consumption.