Consumer expenditures

There is a consumers side of the de-linking of economy and ecology. Under the assumption that most of the households spend in their life what they earn in their life, the total EVR of the spending of households is the key towards sustainability. Only when this total EVR of the spending gets lower, the eco-costs related to the total spending can be reduced even at a higher level of spending. There are two ways of achieving this:
1. at the product level: the delivery of eco-efficient (“low EVR”) products and services by the industry
2. at the consumers level: the change of lifestyle in the direction of “low EVR” consumption patterns.

At the product level, our society is heading in the right direction: gradually industrial production is achieving higher levels of the value/costs ratio and is at the same time becoming “cleaner”.
At the consumers level, however, our society is suffering from the fact that the consumers preferences are heading in the wrong direction: towards products and services with an unfavourable EVR (like driving in SUVs, more kilometres, intercontinental

flights for holidays). These unfavourable preferences can be concluded from Fig 4.2a.

Fig.4.2a shows that people in The Netherlands (and probably in the other EC countries as well) spend relatively more money on cars and holidays when the have more money available. Other studies show that people tend to have intercontinental holidays at the moment they can afford it.
Although not enough data is available yet to make an eco-cost calculation on the spending patterns of households, it is obvious that the evolving preferences of the period 1990-2000 will become a big problem in the near future, since the EVR of housing is much lower than the EVR of transport and (inter)continental holidays by plane:
– the EVR of housing is estimated in the range of 0.20-0.25
– the EVR of transport by car in Europe is estimated in the range of 0.7-0.8.

Figure 4.2a. Preferences of expenditures of households in The Netherlands