Carbon footprint of American lifestyles: A geodemographic segmentation approach

Giovanni Baiocchi*, Kuishuang Feng, Klaus Hubacek, Cole Walters

*Corresponding author for this work

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In order to deliver substantial reductions of U.S. residential emissions, cost-effective responses to climate change will need to recognize changes in consumer behavior and lifestyles as important mechanisms to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. Marketing experts have long recognized the usefulness of developing composite variables to target specific consumer lifestyles and have subsequently developed market segmentation approaches to express relationships between geodemographics and consumer behavior. This paper represents the first use of detailed segmentation data to look at US footprint at high spatial resolution. We employ market segmentation data to delineate lifestyles for approximately 70 000 census tracts in the US and develop a spatial framework to better conceptualize lifestyles as location specific typologies of emission drivers. We find that lifestyles are not only very useful in explaining variations in emissions but in fact are as important as income, typically recognized as the major determinant of consumption emissions. Results from our analysis link the differences between suburban and urban footprints directly to lifestyle patterns and illustrate the geographic distribution of emissions resulting from households' consumption. We find that statistical clustering and consumer classification methods provide a unique perspective for understanding how various CO2 drivers interact and impact household emissions. Our proposed framework suggests that carbon mitigation strategies should move beyond a 'one-size-fits-all' approach centered on income and account for community specific lifestyle impacts related to consumer preferences and demographic characteristics at fine spatial scale.

Original languageEnglish
Article number064018
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • American
  • carbon footprint
  • drivers
  • emissions
  • greenhouse gas
  • lifestyles

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