Wealthy residents in the leafiest, most desirable parts of the West Midlands are slowly killing the environment with gas-guzzling commutes and foreign holidays, a new study claimed yesterday.
People in the Malverns are using up more natural resources per head than anyone else in the region, according to a #500,000 report commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund.
The document, Counting Consumption, took a detailed look at where and how quickly the world's resources were being consumed, coupled with the waste produced per region in the UK.
It found that the residents of the Malvern Hills left the largest 'ecological footprint', in the West Midlands.
The ecological footprint took into account water, energy, food and materials used to sustain a person's daily life, and calculates how many times its share the person takes of the total world's surface.
The average person in Malvern takes up 5.85 hectares, compared with 5.1 hectares in Stoke-onTrent, the lowest ecological footprint in the West Midlands, and the area where the average income is lowest. The West Midlands average is 5.36, equal to the UK average.
"The key factor is wealth," said Dr John Barrett, a scientist with the Stockholm Environment Institute, which produced the data for the study. "Wealthier households do more foreign travel, they have more cars and replacements - and more inefficient cars as well - and more money to spend on high-income services.
"An example of this is going out to restaurants for example - the food tends to be imported and there is a colossal amount of wastage, up to 50 per cent."
The density of each household also tended to be lower.
"Homes are bigger - meaning more maintenance is required - and more spread out, meaning greater transport demand, and occupancy rates of houses are lower. If you live like this you are not dividing energy consumption with so many people."
A spokesperson for Malvern Hills District Council said its new local plan focused on brownfield site-based sustainable settlements and improvement to transport infrastructure was in the pipeline. Events were also on-going to promote recycling and energy efficiency, she said.
"The council will certainly be looking into the implications of this report. Malvern Hills is a large rural district which is one of the most sought after places in the county to live and great efforts are being made by the council and local communities to promote sustainability."
Stratford-upon-Avon, Bromsgrove and Warwick also followed close behind. People in Sandwell, Walsall and Wolver-hampton were those also with the lowest ecological footprint - but they were also among the lowest earners.