Understanding the Environmental Impacts of Household Consumption : A Holistic Systems Approach
Ken Peattie and Frances Hines, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
A great deal of the environmental impact of our industrial system is determined by decisions taken, and behaviour undertaken, within private households. There have been many detailed studies of the environmental impacts of specific products such as cars or washing machines, and one or two ambitious attempts to compare the environmental impacts of a wide range of product types against a range of environmental criteria (for example the excellent EIPRO project). Such studies tend to consider the impacts of products on a ‘one-at-a-time' basis and do not provide a holistic picture of how the composition, behaviour and evolution of households can affect the specifics of environmental impacts. Developing a more holistic understanding of how households consume, and the impacts that consumption has, will help in the development of products and strategies that allow businesses, policy-makers and householders to all play a part, in an integrated way, in the quest to moderate the environmental impacts of household consumption.

This paper reviews existing knowledge on the environmental impacts of household consumption and explores some approaches to building integrated, systems-based models that could allow a more detailed and comprehensive understanding of these impacts to emerge. As well as helping to make the nature and complexity of these impacts easier to understand, this approach is useful in highlighting the current areas of strength and weakness in our research-generated knowledge-base. This in turn will be helpful in terms of developing future research strategies and framing research questions.

Presentation File (.ppt format, 1033.0 kb)