Inderscience Publishers

Indicators for environmentally sustainable household consumption

The objective of this paper is to identify those areas of consumption in which private households can make significant contributions to environmental sustainability, and to present a transparent and comprehensive set of indicators for them. The analysis of the environmental impacts of households focuses on consumption clusters that allow different life spheres of private households to be distinguished. Two criteria guided the investigation of the relevance of these clusters: (i) the environmental significance of the consumption cluster in terms of resource consumption, and (ii) the potential influence of households compared with other actors. Resource consumption was chosen as a simplified but reliable representation of environmental pressure dynamics. Growing resource consumption goes together with growing environmental pressures and vice versa, although not necessarily proportionally. The key resources analysed are energy and material consumption, and land use. Based on this analysis, three consumption clusters were identified as priority fields for action by households: construction and housing, food/nutrition and transport (in this order). All other consumption clusters can be considered environmentally marginal, providing combined saving potentials of less than 10% of the total resource consumption. Finally, from a description of the respective roles of actors based on anecdotal evidence, a semi-quantitative "actor matrix" is presented, indicating the relative influence of different actors in each consumption cluster.

Keywords: actor-centred approach, indicators, key resources, land-use patterns, material flows, sustainability

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