Dematerialization Through Services: Evaluating the Evidence

  • Blair FixEmail author
Original Paper


Dematerialization through services is a popular proposal for reducing environmental impact. The idea is that by shifting from the production of goods to the provision of services, a society can reduce its material demands. But do societies with a larger service sector actually dematerialize? I test the ‘dematerialization through services’ hypothesis with a focus on fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions—the primary drivers of climate change. I find no evidence that a service transition leads to carbon dematerialization. Instead, a larger service sector is associated with greater use of fossil fuels and greater carbon emissions per person. This suggests that ‘dematerialization through services’ is not a valid sustainability policy.


Dematerialization Service transition Carbon emissions Energy 



I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for comments that have improved this paper. I also thank Charles Hall and Kent Klitgaard for helpful comments on earlier versions of this research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

The author acknowledges no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada

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