Production & Consumption

Private consumption is of very high relevance for sustainable development. 39% of greenhouse gas emissions are generated by food, clothing, communication and leisure. Through their demand behavior, households exercise an important influence on the manner, number and variety of products manufactured, sold and used and their environmental impact. At the same time, the major proportion of the environmental impact is attributable to private consumption.

This category includes a wide range of strategic directions and measures that help to reduce the environmental impact of production and consumption. Both producers (especially industry and commerce) and households and consumers are addressed.

  • Product design/recycling economy: This includes products and services that require less energy and fewer resources over their entire service life as well as recycling economy approaches in which materials are kept in closed cycles as "nutrients". Examples for this are the environmentally sound development of products over the entire life cycle, sustainable products/services in all areas of consumption (food, leisure, appliances, consumer goods, etc.) and innovations in production and consumption. It also includes services that help reduce the consumption of consumer goods, such as "use instead of own approaches" (e.g. home swapping, tool rental, etc.).
  • (Industrial) processes: This includes process optimizations that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in industrial production. Examples include new process technologies, the optimal use of measurement technologies to reduce CO2 emissions, or analysis tools that help to analyze the CO2 savings potential.
  • Information and knowledge transfer: This plays an important role on the consumer side, as often it is only the actions of consumers that leads to the desired changes. Examples include orientation aids for consumers (labels, consumption guides, tools for calculating the environmental impact) or measures to raise awareness or promote education, e.g. in schools.
  • Efficient and renewable energy supply: the energy supply plays a key role along the entire production and consumption chain. This includes the production, storage, transmission, distribution and consumption of energy, where technical as well as organizational solutions are of interest, e.g.:
    • Energy production: Innovative forms of renewable energy production that go beyond the current state of technology and are not already the market standard, such as standard photovoltaic installations or mini hydroelectric power plants.
    • Energy storage and transmission: Solutions for Smart Grids and Smart Metering, system integration of renewable energies, energy-saving systems and efficient energy storage systems.
    • Energy consumption: information tools for consumers.

Emissions share of total consumption

Anteile Emissionen am gesamten Konsum

Figure: Percentage share of CO2 emissions of the individual consumption categories in the total emissions from consumption (BAFU 2011)

Food causes the biggest greenhouse gas emissions from private consumption. Crucial is how much of the food consumed is transported by aircraft and how meat is consumed. Additional information on the reduction potentials in food can be found in this chart.

Greenhouse gas reduction potential in food

Figure: Treibhausgasreduktionspotenziale in der Ernährung. Quelle: Jungbluth et al. 2012. Lesebeispiel: Mit dem Verzicht auf Fleisch (vegetarische Ernährung) können die Treibhausgasemissionen des privaten Konsums um 5.6% gesenkt werden.

Explanations on the key:

Environment- and health-conscious: animal products and semi-luxury goods are reduced, no use of greenhouse vegetables and goods transported by air.

Vegetarian food: reduction in the consumption of meat and animal products in favor of cereal, fruit and vegetable products.

Responsible enjoyment: reduction in the consumption of semi-luxury goods, such as alcohol, coffee, chocolate, tobacco, etc.

Less food waste: no food losses by consumers

Organic products: purchase of organic products.

Regional food: no use of goods transported by air.


Every purchase triggers a positive chain reaction

Coop head Joos Sutter on strawberries, putting out the lights and sustainable shopping, and what all of this has to do with climate chain.

Coop - Every purchase triggers a positive chain reaction

Winner 2010

Kehrichtverwertung Zürcher Oberland and Gebrüder Meier, Hinwil

for the use of waste heat from the waste incineration plant for sustainable vegetable production.

Kehrichtverwertung Zürcher Oberland und Gebrüder Meier, Hinwil

Winner 2011

Tropenhaus Frutigen

for the innovative use of the hot waste water from the Lötschberg base tunnel for sustainable fish breeding and the production of tropical fruits.

Tropenhaus Frutigen