Situated lifestyles: I. How lifestyles change along with the level of urbanization and what the greenhouse gas implications are - a study of Finland

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An extensive body of literature demonstrates how higher density leads to more efficient energy use and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transport and housing. However, our current understanding seems to be limited on the relationships between the urban form and the GHG emissions, namely how the urban form affects the lifestyles and thus the GHGs on a much wider scale than traditionally assumed. The urban form affects housing types, commuting distances, availability of different goods and services, social contacts and emulation, and the alternatives for pastimes, meaning that lifestyles are actually situated instead of personal projects. As almost all consumption, be it services or products, involves GHG emissions, looking at the emissions from transport and housing may not be sufficient to define whether one form would be more desirable than another. In the paper we analyze the urban form–lifestyle relationships in Finland together with the resulting GHG implications, employing both monetary expenditure and time use data to portray lifestyles in different basic urban forms: metropolitan, urban, semi-urban and rural. The GHG implications are assessed with a life cycle assessment (LCA) method that takes into account the GHG emissions embedded in different goods and services. The paper depicts that, while the direct emissions from transportation and housing energy slightly decrease with higher density, the reductions can be easily overridden by sources of indirect emissions. We also highlight that the indirect emissions actually seem to have strong structural determinants, often undermined in studies concerning sustainable urban forms. Further, we introduce a concept of 'parallel consumption' to explain how the lifestyles especially in more urbanized areas lead to multiplication of consumption outside of the limits of time budget and the living environment. This is also part I of a two-stage study. In part II we will depict how various other contextual and socioeconomic variables are actually also very important to take into account, and how diverse GHG mitigation strategies would be needed for different types of area in different locations towards a low-carbon future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number025003
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • consumption
  • GHG, urban form
  • greenhouse gas
  • LCA
  • life cycle assessment
  • lifestyle
  • real estate business
  • REB
  • spatial planning
  • urbanization


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