Households Drive Economy

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1) INTRODUCTION TO THEME (1)

In this book Material Concerns, from which three Readings in the Introduction to Working with our Environment are taken, Tim Jackson argues that people living in households, through their demand for goods and services, are the main 'engine' that drives the industrial economy. In fact in most industrialized countries household expenditures on food, clothing, housing, transport, recreation, etc. accounts for about 60 per cent of total economic output (OECD, 1998 p. 77). That still leaves the goods and services not actually consumed in households, but in agriculture and food processing, by manufacturing and energy supply industries, in banking, health and education services, by government, and so on. But it may be argued that ultimately the function of these various 'primary', 'secondary' and 'tertiary' economic activities is to provide individuals and households with the products and services required to meet their material needs and wants, as well as providing employment and income.

2) YOUR HOUSEHOLD AND THE ENVIRONMENT

2.1 Why households are important

Households are units to which services such as electricity and water are supplied and billed and which may share goods and facilities such as cars, cookers and heating systems.

From an Environment viewpoint, which is our concern in this course, a household can be considered as a unit that makes direct and indirect demands for inputs of energy, materials and water from the natural environment and produces outputs, again direct and indirect, of emissions and solid wastes, to the environment.

2.2 Household demands for energy and resources

One of the most environmentally important effects of households arises from their consumption of energy because of the CO2 and other emissions, such as SO2 and smoke, produced when fossil fuels are burned. Domestic energy consumption for heating cooking, lighting and so on accounted for about 30% of all delivered energy used in the UK and about a quarter of UK emissions of CO2 in 1996. For comparison, industry and transport (including transport for household functions such as travel to work, shopping, etc.) produced about 30% each of total UK CO2 emissions in 1996 (DETR, 1998a; Boardman et al., 1997, pp. 2-3). But if you include the personal transport element, households account for about half of the energy used in the UK, and so are a very significant source of CO2 emissions as well as air pollution and other environmental effects (Environmental Agency, 1999).

The demands that are placed on the environment vary from household to household depending on factors such as the number and ages of people in the household, their lifestyle, income needs, wants, values and aspiration.
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