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Men's Spending Habits Result In More Carbon Emissions Than Women's, A Study Finds

A man refuels his car in Paris in 2020. Men spend their money on greenhouse gas-emitting goods and services at a much higher rate than women, researchers found.
Franck Fife
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AFP via Getty Images
A man refuels his car in Paris in 2020. Men spend their money on greenhouse gas-emitting goods and services at a much higher rate than women, researchers found.

When it comes to climate change, male consumers may get a bit more of the blame than their female counterparts. Men spend their money on greenhouse gas-emitting goods and services, such as meat and fuel, at a much higher rate than women, a new Swedish study found.

Published this week in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, the study looked at consumer-level spending patterns rather than the climate impact of producers and manufacturers to see if households could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by buying different products and services.

"The way they spend is very stereotypical – women spend more money on home decoration, health and clothes and men spend more money on fuel for cars, eating out, alcohol and tobacco," study author Annika Carlsson Kanyama, at the research company Ecoloop in Sweden, told The Guardian.

The authors analyzed Swedish government data through 2012 on the spending habits of households, single men and single women, as well as other more updated consumer pricing data. They said a "large proportion" of people in affluent countries, such as those in the European Union, live in single-person households.

Single Swedish men didn't spend much more money than single Swedish women in total — only about 2% more — but what they bought tended to have a worse impact on the environment, according to the study.

In fact, men spent their money on things that emitted 16% more greenhouse gases than what women bought. For example, men spent 70% more money on "greenhouse gas intensive items" such as fuel for their vehicles.

There were also differences between men and women within categories, such as spending on food and drinks. Men bought meat at a higher rate than women, though women purchased dairy products at a greater clip than men. Both meat and dairy production result in high greenhouse gas emissions.

The study found that men also outspent women when it came to travel, both on plane tickets and "package tours" as well as on vacations by car.

The authors suggested that people could lower their carbon emissions by 36% to 38% by switching to plant-based foods, traveling by train instead of in planes or cars and buying secondhand furnishings or repairing or renting some items.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez

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