Materials and energy are mainly used up in the production, transport/delivery and consumption of goods and services. In a recent online poll of 1,009 individuals, over 60% of each age category said they prioritize life experiences over possessions. Whether “experiences” are more damaging to the environment than possessions depends on the experiences and the possessions.

Per the World Bank, per capita CO2 emissions in the US are 17 metric tons per year (roughly 37,500 pounds) – about 4 times the global average. How could we cut that in half without putting a serious dent in the American standard of living?

This is a complicated question. We’ll have to figure out CO2 emissions for typical products, services, and activities, what a decent standard of living would be, and which and how much of the products, services and activities are required to achieve a decent standard of living. A lot of guesswork and assumptions will be involved. Approximation is the goal, not precision.

Next: a bunch of calculations.