A material flow analysis and ecological footprint of York

A material flow analysis and ecological footprint of York
John Barrett
Harry Vallack
Andrew Jones
Gary Haq
Stockholm Environment Institute
Executive Summary
In November 2001, the Stockholm Environment Institute at York (SEI-Y), based at the University
of York, initiated a study to measure the quantity of food and materials that the residents of York
consume annually and to determine the resultant ‘ecological footprint' - a measure of the City of
York's impact on the local and global environment. The study was funded by Norwich Union and
was produced as a contribution to the Energy Saving Trust's ‘Planet York' campaign and the City of
York's Local Agenda 21 - Better Quality of Life Strategy.
This project sets out
to determine the total material requirement of the City of York using a ‘Material
Flow Analysis' and then to calculate the Ecological Footprint associated with the consumption of
these materials. Taken together, these indicators can provide a comprehensive framework for
understanding the various pathways that the City could take in order to move towards sustainability
as well as enabling the more effective communication of ideas about sustainable lifestyles to the
City's residents.
The purpose of a
material flow analysis (MFA)
is to follow and quantify the flow of materials in a
defined situation and over a set period of time. The end products of the MFA for York are detailed
input-output tables showing the flow of all materials associated with non-industrial consumption
that entered and left the city during the year 2000. These materials include the weight of fuel (the
‘energy carriers') required to produce the consumption items and bring them to York, to build
York's infrastructure, to provide domestic heat and lighting, for personal transportation and so
forth. Also accounted for are the ‘hidden flows' of materials that do not enter the economy for
example, the removal of overburden during mining or waste trimmings from forestry.
While MFA provides valuable information concerning the total throughput of materials within York,
ecological footprint
provides an understanding of the environmental pressures of these material
flows. It considers the amount of productive land and water ecosystems in hectares (ha) that York
requires to provide the goods and services that it consumes and to assimilate the wastes that it
produces. Some of this land will be found within York itself while the rest will be in other countries
and continents. The footprint includes the notional forest land area that would be required to sequester
the carbon from carbon dioxide (CO
) emissions (and emissions of other major greenhouse gases
(GHGs) converted into CO
equivalents) due to fossil fuel combustion. The study focuses on energy
use; food, food packaging and food miles; housing, non-food consumables, waste, transport, water
supply and other infrastructure.
Open Access
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