Material Requirements of Decent Living Standards

A. Veléz-Henao and S. Pauliuk, “Material Requirements of Decent Living Standards,” Environ. Sci. Technol., 2023, doi: 10.1021/acs.est.3c03957


Decent living standards (DLS) provide a framework to estimate a practical threshold for the energy, GHG, and material consumption required to alleviate poverty. Currently, most research has focused on estimating the energy required to provide the DLS. However, no attempt has been made to estimate the material consumption needed to provide the DLS. Thus, we ask the following questions: First, what is the amount of materials in stocks and flows needed to provide a DLS? Second, which lifestyle and technology choices are effective in providing a DLS without creating an excessive demand for additional materials? To provide a DLS, a material footprint (MF) of 6 t/(cap*yr) with a lower and upper bound between 3 and 14 t/(cap*yr) is required. The direct and indirect in-use stocks required are estimated at 32 t/cap and 11 t/cap, respectively. Nutrition (39%) and mobility (26%) contribute the most to total MF. Buildings account for 98% of direct stocks, while the construction sector accounts for 61% of indirect stocks. We extend the coverage of the DLS by including the collective service dimension and link the material stock-flow-service nexus and life cycle assessment to compute the MF and in-use stocks needed to provide the DLS.

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