Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 97-117

First online:

Effect of consumption choices on fluxes of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus through households

  • Lawrence A. BakerAffiliated withWater Resources Center, University of Minnesota Email author 
  • , Paul M. HartzheimAffiliated withWater Resources Science Graduate Program, University of Minnesota
  • , Sarah E. HobbieAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota
  • , Jennifer Y. KingAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of MinnesotaDepartment of Soil, Water and Climate, University of Minnesota
  • , Kristen C. NelsonAffiliated withDepartment of Forest Resources and Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota

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Households are an important scale of analysis for human ecosystems because they are a major source of pollutants and could thus be a new focus for pollution management, particularly for education-based source reduction strategies. The household is also a meaningful unit for analysis of human ecosystems, being common to all human cultures. This study develops a Household Flux Calculator (HFC) to compute C, N, and P fluxes for scenarios intended to represent three levels of household consumption: low, typical, and high. All three scenarios were developed for suburban households with two adults and two children in the Minneapolis-St. Paul (Twin Cities) metropolitan area, Minnesota. Calculated ratios of fluxes between high and low consumption households were 3.5:1 for C, 2.7:1 for N and 1.4:1 for P. Results suggest a high level of discretionary consumption that could be reduced without a substantial reduction in standard of living. Thus, modest changes in behavior in high consumption households would greatly reduce fluxes of C, N, and P without major changes in lifestyle.


Household Household ecosytem Lawn Fertilizer Emissions Food Wastewater Flux Carbon Nitrogen Phosphorus