• Open Access

From Energy to Environmental Analysis

Improving the Resolution of the Environmental Impact of Dutch Private Consumption with Hybrid Analysis


  • René M.J. Benders,

  • Henri C. Moll,

  • Durk S. Nijdam

René M. J. Benders, Center for Energy and Environmental Studies (IVEM), University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 4, 9747AG, the Netherlands. Email:r.m.j.benders@rug.nl


Unsustainable private consumption causes energy and environmental problems. This occurs directly (resource depletion and emissions through using cars for transport) or indirectly (purchase of consumer goods and services for which the production uses energy and emits damaging gases).

A hybrid energy analysis proved that indoor energy consumption, mobility, and vacations are the main consumer categories from an energy point of view. Although energy is often used as a proxy for environmental load from private consumption, there are other proxies like methane (CH4), sulfur oxides (SOx), and land use. This article describes the results of the extension of the hybrid energy analysis with energy and ten environmental stressors (CH4, nitrous oxide [N2O], nitrogen, phosphate, SOx, nitrogen oxides [NOx], ammonia [NH3], nonmethane volatile organic compounds [NMVOCs], particulate matter [PM10], and land use), combined in five impact categories (global warming potential [GWP], acidification, eutrophication, summer smog, and land use).

Household consumption was analyzed by dividing Dutch household expenditure into 368 consumer items in 11 categories. The results show that food impacts, in particular, are underestimated when only energy is taken into account. Food makes the highest contribution in three out of five impact categories when all ten stressors are taken into account. Within the food domain, meat and dairy consumer items have the highest environmental impact, about 45% of total food impact on average across all five impact categories. Looking in detail (368 consumer items), there are nine food items in the top ten most-polluting items. Salad oil and cheese are the most polluting food items.