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Australian Conservation Foundation’s Consumption Atlas

Posted in Research by Ferne Edwards on July 17th, 2007

The environmental not-for-profit, Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), has recently released the Consumption Atlas, a new interactive online tool that reveals that “people living in Australias wealthiest metropolitan areas are responsible for the countrys highest household greenhouse pollution based on their levels of consumption of goods and services.”

Below is an article from the ACF website (or click here) with more details about the Atlas and household consumption. To go directly to the Atlas go to

ACFs Consumption Atlas enables Australians to view the greenhouse pollution created by households in their suburb. The Atlas shows that the more things people buy, the greater their contribution to climate change. ACF is encouraging householders to be smarter with how they spend their money, and consider the impact of their purchasing behaviour on the environment.

“Over-consumption is costing us the earth,” said Chuck Berger, ACFs Director of Sustainability Strategies. “Use of electricity in the home accounts for just 15 per cent of the greenhouse pollution each of us creates. The majority is created indirectly from the production and transportation of all the things we are buying.”

The Consumption Atlas shows households in areas straddling the harbour in inner Sydney and the banks of the Brisbane River in Queensland are the countrys biggest greenhouse polluters. These areas are closely followed by: inner-suburban Canberra; Woollahra and Mosman in Sydney; Southbank and Docklands in Melbourne; and Fortitude Valley and Newstead in Brisbane. The lowest greenhouse polluting Australian households are in Tasmania – in the Derwent Valley, Kentish and Brighton areas.

“Everything we buy has an impact on the environment, as all things demand energy, water and other natural resources to produce. People can make a difference to their individual contribution to greenhouse pollution by buying less, wasting less and choosing products that last,” Mr Berger said.

Food and consumer products, such as clothes, appliances, furniture and electronics often require large amounts of energy, water and materials to produce. “It is better to spend more of our money on services – from sporting-event tickets to massages – because services in general demand fewer resources than goods. There is the bonus that services tend to be more labour intensive or, in other words, more jobs are being created per dollar output.”

The Consumption Atlas is based on research by the University of Sydneys Centre for Integrated Sustainability Analysis and was assisted by the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust. The Atlas uses the typical purchasing habits of each suburb in Australia to calculate the impact this consumption is having on the environment, from greenhouse pollution to water use and land disturbance.

“The households with the biggest environment impact are high-income earning, inner-city, small or single-person households,” said Chris Dey at the University of Sydney. “While inner-city households have better access to public transport and are less car-dependent, with their higher incomes they typically buy more things and travel by air more often. But having a high income doesnt have to have a high impact on the environment; all of us must consume smarter and more sustainably. Expenditure on energy-efficient appliances and cars, on well-designed and insulated houses, and on services rather than goods, can significantly reduce your eco-footprint,” he added.

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