Magazine article Science News

Not So Clean: Service Industries Emit Greenhouse Gases Too

Magazine article Science News

Not So Clean: Service Industries Emit Greenhouse Gases Too

Article excerpt

In recent decades, a large part of the U.S. economy has shifted to providing services rather than manufacturing products. Despite the presumption that the change bodes well for the environment, service industries such as the retail trade are creating just as much planet-warming carbon dioxide as the manufacture and operation of motor vehicles do, a new analysis suggests.

Industrial ecologist Sangwon Suh of the University of Minnesota in St. Paul scrutinized the movement of energy, raw materials, and products through various sectors of the economy. In such an analysis, emissions "that happen behind the scenes can then be taken into account," he notes.

In aggregate, all the companies that provide services are directly responsible for less than 5 percent of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, says Suh. However, when researchers also account for emissions that are generated in supporting activities such as the manufacture of equipment and supplies for service industries, some of them don't look so green.

For example, the retail trade--everything from large department stores on New York City's Fifth Avenue to small shops on any town's Main Street-boosts greenhouse gases annually in amounts that warm Earth as much as 326.8 million tons of carbon dioxide would. That retail-trade estimate includes the emissions generated in the construction of stores, the manufacture of goods to be sold, and their shipment to the retailer or customer, Suh notes. The total represents 5.4 percent of the nation's planet-warming emissions.

Similarly, restaurants, bars, and similar establishments each year contribute 5. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.