Foresight Centre: Residents of North East and North Estonia leave the smallest environmental footprint

The average environmental footprint of an Estonian resident exceeds the planetary boundary by 3.8 times but depends greatly on the individual’s place of residence and income, shows the Foresight Centre report “Environmental footprint of Estonian residents by social groups and regions”.

Expert of the Foresight Centre Magnus Piirits highlighted the home heating solutions and mobility as the main reasons for differences between the environmental footprints of Estonian residents. “Lower income receivers use more stove heating, which emits more fine particles into the air. As wealth grows, the environmental footprint of heating tends to decrease, while the environmental impact of mobility instead increases,” Piirits said.

As a rule, larger incomes lead to larger environmental footprint but this does not increase uniformly across all the consumption categories.

Among other things, the Foresight Centre calculations reveal that the larger the household income, the more motor vehicles they own and the more they fly, which leads to increased environmental impact. However, food related environmental footprint tends to be the same across households. The environmental burden of home heating, on the other hand, is below average in wealthier groups because they use highly efficient and cleaner forms of heating.

In regional perspective, the environmental footprint is the smallest for households in North East (2.8) and North Estonia (3.4), and above average in West (4.2), South (4.3), and Central Estonia (4.6).

The environmental footprint of North East residents is the smallest in every consumption category but the main difference comes from the more wide-spread use of central heating, which has a smaller environmental footprint. The same goes for North Estonia, where 80% of households use district heating, or block heating which has a smaller footprint. Regions with above average environmental footprint are often more dependent on stove heating which has a larger environmental footprint due to the emission of fine particles.

The environmental footprint of different households is roughly the same, however the structure of its components varies.

For example, the reason behind the largest environmental footprint (3.9) of the more elderly households is mostly found in home heating because they often have one or two people per household and thus more heatable living space per person. If families with or without children have an above average environmental footprint, this is usually linked to mobility. In a year, families with children cover on average twice the distance that members of more elderly households do.

The calculator of planetary boundaries has been developed by scientists and the European Commission. You can calculate your own environmental footprint on the webpage:

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