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Environmental impacts of products: A detailed review of studies

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Author: Tukker, A. · Jansen, B.
Institution: TNO Bouw en Ondergrond
Source:Journal of Industrial Ecology, 3, 10, 159-182
Identifier: 239309
Keywords: Research · Consumption · Environmental assessment · Environmental policy · Input-output analysis (IOA) · Integrated product policy (IPP) · Life-cycle assessment (LCA) · Carbon dioxide · Economic and social effects · Energy utilization · Environmental impact · Health care · Waste management · Environmental assessment · Environmental policy · Input-output analysis (IOA) · Integrated product policy (IPP) · Life-cycle assessment (LCA) · Environmental engineering · economic activity · environmental impact · environmental policy · European Union · input-output analysis · life cycle analysis · product development · Eurasia · Europe · European Union


Environmental effects of economic activities are ultimately driven by consumption, via impacts of the production, use, and waste management phases of products and services ultimately consumed. Integrated product policy (IPP) addressing the life-cycle impacts of products forms an innovative new generation of environmental policy. Yet this policy requires insight into the final consumption expenditures and related products that have the greatest life-cycle environmental impacts. This review article brings together the conclusions of 11 studies that analyze the life-cycle impacts of total societal consumption and the relative importance of different final consumption categories. This review addresses in general studies that were included in the project Environmental Impacts of Products (EIPRO) of the European Union (EU), which form the basis of this special issue. Unlike most studies done in the past 25 years on similar topics, the studies reviewed here covered a broad set of environmental impacts beyond just energy use or carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The studies differed greatly in basic approach (extrapolating LCA data to impacts of consumption categories versus approaches based on environmentally extended input-output (EEIO) tables), geographical region, disaggregation of final demand, data inventory used, and method of impact assessment. Nevertheless, across all studies a limited number of priorities emerged. The three main priorities, housing, transport, and food, are responsible for 70% of the environmental impacts in most categories, although covering only 55% of the final expenditure in the 25 countries that currently make up the EU. At a more detailed level, priorities are car and most probably air travel within transport, meat and dairy within food, and building structures, heating, and (electrical) energy-using products within housing. Expenditures on clothing, communication, health care, and education are considerably less important. Given the very different approaches followed in each of the sources reviewed, this result hence must be regarded as extremely robust. Recommendations are given to harmonize and improve the methodological approaches of such analyses, for instance, with regard to modeling of imports, inclusion of capital goods, and making an explicit distinction between household and government expenditure. © 2006 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University.