23 October 2017

Is a sustainable lifestyle achievable?

Options Winter 2017/18: Gibran Vita, a 2017 YSSP participant, looks at how use of durable goods contributes to energy demand.



An environmentally friendly lifestyle keeps the consumption of natural resources to a minimum, and
those wishing to live sustainably should steer clear of short-lived goods such as throwaway fashion or plastic bottles. Even durable goods, however, often require
complementary disposable goods, which add up to substantial amounts of energy and resources. For instance, using a vehicle requires fuel and other services such as repairs and insurance.

For his project in the 2017 YSSP, Gibran Vita investigated how the use of durables, consumables, and services changed between 1995 and 2011, and what that means for global energy consumption.

In the research, he traced the energy footprints of a range of durable goods, such as washing machines, and non-durable goods like fuels and cleaning chemicals. The calculations covered the entire lifecycle, from cradle to grave, of 200 goods in the 43 largest economies in the world, and five world regions, including Africa and Asia.

Vita found that the production and distribution of durable goods is responsible for 11% of the global energy footprint. However, the services and consumables needed to run these durable goods amount to 41% and 5% of global energy, respectively. That means 57% of global
energy is either directly or indirectly related to durable goods.

“Human development relies upon modern energy, and modern energy can only be used through appliances,” says Vita. “The emphasis should not only be on cleaner and more energy efficient production, but mainly on cutting down the total energy in material goods we require to live well.’’

Text by Caroline Njoki

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Last edited: 04 January 2019


Tanja Huber

YSSP Coordinator & Team Leader

Young Scientists Summer Program

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Options Winter 2017/18

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