Inventory Case 8: King County and City of Seattle Consumption Based Emissions Inventory 2008 data

Responsible Party
King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, with City of Seattle, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and US DoE EECCBG
Case Study Year
City Involved
County Involved
State Involved
Country Involved
United States
Case Study Type
Inventory Case

King County and City of Seattle Consumption Based Emissions Inventory 2008/2010 data

Who did it - King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, with partners City of Seattle, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and support from the US Department of Energy EECBG funds.

What they did - In 2010-2012, King County updated the existing community greenhouse gas emissions inventory (2003) and used a new Consumption Based Emissions Inventory (CBEI) approach to estimate GHGs impacts of government, resident and business consumption. The County procured a consultant team including Stockholm Environmental (SEI) and Cascadia Consulting. The project had 3 tasks:

Task 1 Geographic Emissions Inventory with Supplemental Emissions Sources - Inventory the 2003 and 2008 greenhouse gas emissions produced within King County’s geographic boundaries and also include supplemental sources attributable to King County activities including emissions associated with energy consumed, resident air travel, and waste disposal related emissions. The supplemental emissions report calculates other sources of GHGs and avoided or sequestered GHGs as a result of KC actions including recycling, waste commitment and carbon stored in disposed waste, forest and landfill sequestration and offsets retired by Seattle City Light.

Task 2 Consumption-Based Emissions Inventory (CBEI) - Inventory the GHG emissions associated with the goods and services consumed in the King County geography regardless of where the emissions were produced.

Task 3 Community GHG Emissions Measurement Framework - Developed a framework and methodology for measuring a local community’s most important GHG emissions and for assessing progress toward meeting GHG reduction goals for these sources.

Why they did it - This project was implemented to update the 2003 GHG inventory and to provide a new set of tools by which to understand and track the impact that King County government, businesses and residents have on the climate. The project:

  • Informs individuals, businesses, and local governments about the most important sources of community emissions.
  • Provides important new information relevant to addressing these sources.
  • Informs local government efforts to assess progress towards regional climate goals as well as the efficacy of specific policy and programs that may in part be focused on addressing community emissions.
  • Informs environmental purchasing programs, construction material choices, supply chain management, waste prevention, product stewardship, and recycling efforts.

A consumption-based emissions inventory has not been part of the conventional geographic methodology and its inclusion provides policymakers, businesses and the public a more robust and comprehensive view of how activities in King County contribute to climate change. The geographic inventory includes emissions associated with in-county production of products exported out-of-county, while the consumption-based inventory includes out-of-county emissions associated with production of products consumed in King County providing a new lens by which to understand climate impacts.

Results/outcomes/successes/failures/lessons learned - Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the effects of climate change are key County objectives that are formally adopted in the King County Strategic Plan. The County is implementing many projects and programs where it is uniquely positioned to have a substantial impact on reducing emissions, including its energy, green building and recycling programs, and transit, vanpool and commute trip reduction services.

This research shows that additional efforts, such as reducing waste food or purchasing sustainable and low-impact products can help to create a broader and deeper impact on global greenhouse gas emissions. Other key findings include:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing goods and services, including materials and manufacturing, comprise more than 60 percent of all emissions associated with consumption. Using these goods and services, such as fueling a car or powering a refrigerator, represents more than 25 percent of consumption-based emissions. By contrast, transporting, selling and disposing goods and services together represent less than 15 percent of consumption-based emissions.
  • Through a consumption lens, the largest sources of emissions are relatively equal, with personal transportation contributing 16 percent of overall emissions, followed closely by food (14 percent), services such as health care and banking (14 percent), goods such as furniture and electronics (14 percent) and home energy (13 percent).

While local governments primarily influence emissions through transportation and land use decisions, they can also help to reduce emissions from foods, goods, and services by strengthening our local clean-energy economy and helping residents and business think about green purchasing alternatives. King County is working on several related next steps, including:

  • Using the findings of this study to inform work with King County cities to develop a countywide greenhouse gas emissions reduction target and monitoring framework;
  • Implementing the 2010 King County Energy Plan and supporting community energy efficiency and renewable energy projects;
  • Building the manufacturing base in King County and encouraging residents to buy locally;
  • Continuing to provide County residents practical alternatives to driving their cars;
  • Using the data to help inform environmental purchasing efforts – both for governments and to support consumer and business choices; and
  • Conducting additional research into key sources of emissions, including those associated with food.

Please see for copies of the report.