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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Lifecycle Assessment of U.S. Household Consumption: The Methodology and Inspiration Behind the “Consumer Footprint Calculator”


This project uses an input-output lifecycle assessment approach to estimate the greenhouse gas and conventional pollutants related to the goods and services consumed by the typical U.S. household. Both direct and indirect sources of emissions are considered in five broad categories of consumption: transportation, housing, food, goods and services. The model reveals the relative contribution of some 200 individual consumer decisions to environmental degradation. An initial attempt is also made to attach a dollar value to these pollution streams based on published estimates of the societal costs of these pollutants. The purpose of this project is to develop the framework for creating an interactive online assessment tool, called the Consumer Footprint Calculator, that will allow users to understand the impacts of spending decisions on a broad range of environmental, economic and social indicators.

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