Is past and present household consumption sustainable

We concluded from the results of the HOMES and Greenhouse projects that household consumption in the Netherlands during the fifty-year period since the Second World War was not sustainable. We also concluded that the future demand for resources due to household consumption will exceed the sustainable supply of environmental resources assuming the simultaneous need for an acceptable level of environmental quality. By the latter we mean that meeting human needs may not result in undue harm to other species and their ecosystems. The ToolSust project only confirmed the findings. The conclusions were drawn for a variety of levels and household functions. The geographical levels ranged from single households in the Netherlands to cities in four European countries. The actor levels ranged from political (taxes, regulation), economic (product quality, prices) and spatial (spatial planning and infrastructure) to the sociocultural level (institution and social norms). Household functions addressed ranged from fulfilling basic biological needs (e.g. feeding, shelter, transportation, entertainment, tourism) and fundamental social needs (e.g. substance, affection, understanding, participation, identity, freedom). Energy use was chosen as a proxy for the environmental impact of consumption although other indicators such as water use, waste production and habitat deterioration are useful parameters as well. Energy use manifests itself at three important environmental functions: sources, sinks and life support. Most energy is still derived from non-renewable fossil sources (e.g. coal, oil and natural gas). Energy use from fossil fuels gives rise to major environmental impacts such as smog, acidification and global warming. The latter problem results, among others, from overload of atmospheric sinks. Last but not least, global warming, acidification and eutrophication all deteriorate local, regional and global ecological life support systems which are necessary in providing functions such as oxygen production, water purification and plant growth.

Energy use related to household consumption was determined by means of Input—Output Energy Analysis (IO—EA) and hybrid analysis. IO—EA is a top-down method in which macro-economic monetary data on production categories are converted into energy data on final demand categories (e.g. consumers). In hybrid analysis data on production processes are used to determine energy requirements for all goods and services consumed by households. Our studies show that 70 to 80 per cent of national energy use is related to household consumption patterns. Direct household consumption energy requirements (e.g. natural gas, electricity and motor fuel) are substantial but they are often surpassed by the indirect household energy requirements attributed to the consumption of goods and services by households. The most important indirect energy use categories are food, transport and recreation.

Figure 3.1 shows the total (direct + indirect) average energy requirement in the year 2002 of households in four European cities: Groningen, Guildford, Stockholm and Fredrikstad (Kok et al., 2003). The energy requirements range from 257 GJ for Groningen to 327 GJ for Guildford. The cities in countries with the highest expenditures — Norway and the UK — also have the highest

Total energy requirements

350 300 250 200 150 100 50

Total energy requirements

350 300 250 200 150 100 50

The Netherlands

HH Motor fuel

1=1 Solid and liquid fuels

■ Electricity

Hi District heating

■ Other consumption 0 Transport H Recreation El Education 0 Hygiene

Sweden Norway

H Clothing and footwear

□ Household effects

Figure 3.1 Total average energy requirement in the year 2002 of households (GJ/annum per category) for cities in the Netherlands (Groningen), United Kingdom (Guildford), Sweden (Stockholm) and Norway (Fredrikstad)

energy requirements. The share of indirect energy requirements is high in all countries, ranging from 49 per cent in the Netherlands to 60 per cent for Norway. Food, transport and recreation are important categories due both to high shares in the indirect energy requirement and the high energy intensities.

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