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You are here: Home / Environmental topics / Household consumption

Household consumption

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Understanding household consumption patterns is about understanding human behaviour. Consumption patterns in Europe are very different to those 50 years ago. Important factors that drive our consumption include growing incomes, globalisation of the economy, technological breakthroughs (such as the Internet and mobile phones), decreasing household sizes, an ageing population, and habits and cultures. More

Key facts and messages
Continuing depletion of Europe's stocks of natural capital and flows of ecosystem services will ultimately undermine Europe's economy and erode social cohesion. Most of the negative changes are driven by growing use of natural resources to... more
Consumption of goods and services in the EEA member countries is a major driver of global resource use – and associated environmental impacts – as the levels of European demand exceed the continent’s ability to meet them from within its... more
Europeans spend most on food and drink, housing and mobility, three areas that also cause the greatest environmental pressures per Euro spent. Tourism is a fourth area with high and growing environmental pressures from European consumption,... more
The growth in global trade is resulting in an increasing share of the environmental pressures and impacts caused by consumption in EU countries being felt beyond their borders. While some of this shift is between EU countries, a large part is... more
There is major potential for reducing environmental pressures caused by European consumption. Examples include shifting from car use to collective transport and bicycles, choosing high-quality and eco-labelled products and energy-efficient housing... more
Instigating such changes and making more resource-efficient and environmentally sustainable consumption patterns mainstream is a significant challenge. It requires public authorities to put the framework conditions in place to enable business... more
Achieving significant reductions in the environmental pressures related to consumption will require sophisticated policy packages, including regulatory and voluntary instruments, providing sustainable infrastructure, technological support; consumer... more
Europe, like much of the industrialized world, is using an increasing amount of materials. The EU-27 average annual use of material resources is some 16 tonnes per person. On average, about six tonnes of waste per person are generated each year... more
The overall trend in waste generation, including hazardous waste, is upwards. The 6th EAP objective of substantially reducing waste generation has neither been achieved nor is likely to be met in the coming decades unless production and consumption... more
The environmental pressures of Europe's consumption and production patterns, potentially resulting in damage to ecosystems and human health impacts, spread far beyond its borders. Most outlooks predict continued growth in the use of material... more
Just three areas are estimated to be responsible for approximately three quarters of the environmental impacts from household consumption. These areas are eating and drinking; housing and infrastructure; and mobility. more
Efficiency measures have successfully reduced key emissions to air caused by household consumption in the EU-27 between 2000 and 2007. However, growing consumption and changes in consumption patterns have partly offset these gains. For example,... more
Private consumption expenditure grew by 35 % in the EU-27 Member States between 1990 and 2007 with the greatest growth in the EU-12 Member States (75 %). more
One-person households consume, on average, 38 % more products, 42 % more packaging and 55 % more electricity per person than four-person households. more
Meat imports to the EU-15 increased by 120 % from 1990-2007. Cereal imports increased by 83 %, frozen vegetables by 174 %, and bananas by 92 % over the same period. more
Consumption of bottled water has risen markedly in many European countries. The EU average was 105 litres per person in 2009 and varied from 16 litres in Finland to 189 litres in Italy. Energy is used in the manufacturing and transportation... more
Personal mobility is estimated to cause 20 % of greenhouse gases, 19 % of acidifying emissions, 32 % of tropospheric ozone precursors and 15 % of material resource use activated by national consumption. more
There are large variations in the amounts of packaging waste between countries, ranging from 41 kg per person in Bulgaria to 245 kg per person in Ireland. more
Of the 8.2 billion tonnes of materials consumed in EU-27 countries in 2007, minerals accounted for 52 %, fossil fuels for 23 %, biomass for 21 % and metals for 4 %. more
Each European uses, on average, 100-200 litres of tap water a day, but if the amount of water embedded in products (virtual water) such as food, paper, and clothes is included, water use is often 10 to 20 times higher. more
Public water supply accounts for approximately a fifth of water use across Europe – and over a quarter of this is used just to flush the toilet more

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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Phone: +45 3336 7100