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7. Possessions


A package of measures regarding possessions comprising:

  • Low overall consumption of bought goods
  • Majority of bought goods second-hand/ reconditioned, especially high carbon goods such as electronic/ electrical equipment or furniture
  • A very limited number of new high carbon goods, if kept for an adequate lifetime, e.g. electronic/ electrical equipment, furniture
  • A limited number of new medium carbon goods, if kept for an adequate lifetime, e.g. clothes, shoes
  • Minimal consumption of new very high carbon goods, e.g. high-cost jewellery, commercial cut flowers

Complying with this target would, on average in the UK, emit 0.1 tCO2e per capita per year.

NB We obviously encourage consumers to opt for goods with a high energy-efficiency rating (where relevant) although energy consumption during use would be counted under home energy use (target 4).

Suggested monitoring:
Note major purchases, whether they are new/second-hand/reconditioned and the lifetime of the purchase they replace (if relevant)


  • ‘Minimal’ means emissions from these categories amounting to no more than a few per cent of the total target.

Some new goods have a very high carbon footprint, so it is important to limit these purchases, buying only higher quality goods that will have a long lifetime, or buying second-hand, or avoiding such goods altogether.

Examples of carbon footprints of new consumer goods, and suggested minimum lifetimes:


Carbon footprint of manufacture (tCO2e)

Suggested minimum lifetime (y)


One item of clothing/ one pair of shoes



Berners-Lee (2020: 103-105)




Berners-Lee (2020: 116-118); C40 Cities et al (2019: 94)

Carpet for 30 sq. m floor space



Berners-Lee (2020: 124-125)

Washing machine



Berners-Lee (2020: 89-90)




Berners-Lee (2020: 129-131); C40 Cities et al (2019: 94)




Berners-Lee (2020: 43-46)

* This is especially dependent upon frequency of use

The minimum lifetimes are our estimates bearing in mind the total carbon footprints, use rates, and failure rates. (This is an area where there is a significant degree of subjectivity.)

Other high carbon items include:

  • regular luxury flowers, e.g. the carbon footprint of one bunch per week of heated greenhouse-grown or air-freighted flowers amounts to 1.5 tCO2e/y (Berners-Lee M, 2020: 83–84);
  • luxury jewellery, e.g. the carbon footprint of £500 worth of gold/diamonds from Africa amounts to 0.7 tCO2e (Berners-Lee M, 2020: 121–122);

Note that the figures for carbon footprints should be averaged over the product lifespans, and all relevant purchases per year should be included in the total for this target. Also note that carbon emissions for product usage should not be included as these are counted in other categories, e.g. home energy use. For second-hand goods, we assume that the emissions of manufacture are the responsibility of the original purchaser, and hence are minimal for subsequent owners. We have also not included the carbon embodied in goods that you already own, such as cookers, washing machines and TVs, as we are using a ‘one size fits all, starting from now’ approach rather than a historic one. It’s complex and time-consuming to assess the carbon embodied in your existing possessions as it depends on purchase date, equipment type etc., and you can’t change your past choices. However, if you keep your existing possessions for at least the minimum lifetimes indicated by the table above, this will significantly improve the consistency of your choices with the target in this section.


The following academics, scientists and engineers working in climate change have committed to target 7 - possessions.

The following members of the public have committed to target 7 - possessions.