New Zealand’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are usually calculated by taking total emissions as reported under the Kyoto Protocol or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and simply dividing by population. However this focuses on emissions associated with production within New Zealand. From the point of view of individuals, these are not the emissions they control, and hence can mitigate. Individuals can calculate their “carbon footprint” but tools to do this typically focus on a few categories of emissions (mostly electricity, direct fuel use and waste) and emissions footprints are not available for a wide range of households so cannot be used for comparative analysis. This paper explores how the carbon emissions related to the consumption categories of households in New Zealand vary with household characteristics. We use product consumption data from the 2007 Household Economic Survey. Consumption within each category is linked to a carbon intensity multiplier (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per dollar of consumption) which is derived from: the official 2007 input–output table of 106 industries produced by Statistics New Zealand; energy data on carbon dioxide per petajoule of fuel in each industry from the Energy Data File; and the Energy Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report both provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Previous literature has used similar methods to calculate the incidence of a carbon tax (e.g. Creedy and Sleeman ). This paper uses these methods in order to study which sectors of household expenditure offer the greatest opportunities for mitigation and how these opportunities vary with household characteristics such as income decile, region and household composition.