Impact of Locational Choices and Consumer Behaviors on Personal Land Footprints

Land is a scarce resource. We develop consumption-based land footprints (CBLF) for urban and rural U.S. residents to evaluate new levers for reducing land-demand by combining (1) direct land-use for human settlements including housing, (2) indirect land-use associated with personal consumption, for example, food and clothing. Results show that an average urban resident’s indirect land-use (199 176 ft2/capita) is ∼23 times the direct land-use (8519 ft2/capita), for a total urban CBLF of 207 695 ft2/capita. Rural residents have a slightly higher (∼6%) indirect land-use and ∼10 times larger direct land-use
compared to urban. Because in both cases, indirect land-use is much larger than direct, a strategic mix of individual actions including halving food waste (−4.7%), one-day weekly plant-based diet (−3.3%), reducing clothing consumption (−2.8%), and others, can together reduce CBLF by −12.8%. Meanwhile, housing and locational choices across the urban−rural continuum evaluated for the median-density Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSP MSA) yield CBLF reductions from −1.9% (from single- to multifamily housing) to −10.6% (from rural to the urban core). The analysis demonstrates that consumer behavior changes could rival housing/locational choices in order to reduce personal CBLF. Our method of combining input−output analysis with parcel data could be applied in different regions to provide customized information on CBLF mitigation strategies.

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