A new analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Swiss household consumption reveals a large difference between the best and worst households � which range between the equivalent of five to 17 tons of carbon dioxide per capita per year. It suggests GHG reductions are possible if more households adopt similar consumption patterns to those with the lowest emissions. The study, 'GHG reduction potential of changes in consumption patterns and higher quality levels from Swiss household consumption survey', examined the consumption patterns of Swiss households and estimated the GHG emissions associated with different lifestyle areas, such as food, mobility, leisure and housing. Data were collected from the Swiss income and expenditure surveys from 2000-2003 and covered 14,300 households. The researchers compared the 10% of households with the highest emissions per capita and the 10% of households with the lowest emissions. The results demonstrated the total GHG emissions of households varied considerably. Differences between the two groups stemmed mainly from heating, car use, air travel and electricity, which together account for 80 to 90 per cent of the range in GHG emissions. Closer analysis revealed that low emitters do not just consume fewer products, but tend to consume products which emit low levels of GHGs. For example, they tend to spend less on mobility and consume less meat and electronic appliances. They also spend more time on leisure activities, such as cinema, theatre or sport, which have relatively low GHG emissions and more money on high-cost, quality items (with therefore less expenditure available for other energy intensive activities, such as mobility). They tend to live in urban areas where leisure, high quality items and public transport are more accessible. The research indicated a number of consumption patterns that describe the so-called green consumer with low GHG emissions. However, although households show certain tendencies, there was no clear indicator that always identified green consumers. For example, there were high emitters who bought organic food, lived in car-free households and were vegetarian. Nevertheless, the study suggested that a shift towards best-practice consumption could lower GHG emissions. For example, the Swiss Kyoto target of reducing GHG emissions by eight per cent by 2010 could be reached if the share of households demonstrating best-practice consumption increased from 10% to 26%. The same would be true if nine per cent of the worst practice households could change their consumption pattern so they produced the average amount of emissions. The researchers suggest that similar shifts could produce similar results in other OECD countries.


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