Consumer climate change index

This indicator tracks purchases made in Washington and measures the output of greenhouse gases related to product life cycles.

How are climate change and consumer purchasing linked?

Climate change tied to greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, constitutes one of the impact areas measured in the Washington Consumer Environmental Index. Greenhouse gases are emitted during the manufacture, use, and disposal of a product. The index tracks the environmental effects of consumer purchases.

The index shows how consumer purchasing patterns and habits affect climate change. Making and consuming products significantly impacts greenhouse gas production according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studies.

Climate change index: Washington consumer purchases 2000 - 2007. More information on the development of this indicator.

How much have greenhouse emissions increased from manufacturing goods?

The aggregate emissions associated with climate change as measured by this indicator are increasing. Between 2000 and 2007, there was an approximate 26 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions, or 28 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. These greenhouse gas emissions are generated in our state, other areas of the country, and abroad. Many of the products purchased in this state originate abroad, but since data is not available for emissions associated with manufacturing in other countries, the indicator measures only emissions generated from manufacturing within the United States. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions is primarily due to an increase in purchases of products in Washington that have a higher rate of emissions related to the manufacturing of those products.

The emissions based on per dollar spent declined approximately nine percent between 2000 and 2007. This is due to consumer purchasing decisions reflecting a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions associated with the goods and services on a per dollar basis (fewer emissions per dollar, but more overall as shown in the per person and aggregate indicators).

In the case of greenhouse gases from consumer activities, about 75 percent of emissions occur in the production and transportation phase, close to 25 percent occur during the use phase, and less than half a percent occurs during the disposal phase.

Consumer purchases with largest increases in greenhouse gas emissions, 2000-2007

The consumer purchases listed in the table below increased most significantly from 2000 to 2007. Therefore the index shows greater emissions associated with the activity.

Consumer Purchase Increase in tons of 
equivalent carbon dioxide (CO2e) 
emitted from 2000-2007
Electricity use (residential) +6,680,194
Gasoline and diesel fuel (ground transport) +2,418,448
Airline travel +1,459,638
Truck purchases (new and used) +1,136,740
Car purchases (new and used) +903,063

Why should we be concerned about our state's climate change index?

Climate change is a collective, global problem that will affect everyone, and requires everyone's effort to solve. Washington's consumers can play an important role in solving this global dilemma. Washington's economy is approximately the 14th largest in the nation, and the 40th largest in the world.

What are the benefits of reducing consumer greenhouse gas emissions?

  • Reduced risk from climate change.
  • Cleaner air now and for future generations.
  • Saves energy and natural resources.

What are actions being taken to reduce consumer greenhouse gas emissions?

  • Encouraging industry to design electronics for easier recycling.
  • Encouraging government purchasing practices of environmentally preferred products.
  • Increasing the recycling of electronic waste.
  • Encouraging composting of organic waste materials.
  • Encouraging more recycling and reuse.