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Survey: People 'get' recycling but not energy saving

18 August 2011

A new survey, conducted on INCPEN’s behalf by Ipsos MORI in July 2011, shows half GB adults have heard and understood the messages about recycling their waste.

However the wider and arguably more important changes in behaviour which would impact the environment positively – especially lower energy use – remain less well understood.

When asked to choose up to 3 options from a list of things that people can do to help protect and improve the environment, over half (52%) chose ‘recycle bottles, cans, paper and other materials’, the highest number of responses. By contrast, just 15% chose ‘turn down the home heating’ and only 22% chose ‘make fewer car journeys’ and ‘use public transport’.

For some reason, men were significantly more likely (18%) than women (13%) to choose ‘turn down home heating’.

Critically, central heating/hot water is the second highest factor (24%) in a household’s total impact on the environment (source: J M Kooijman, Environmental impact of packaging: performance in the household) yet turning down the heating was ranked at only 11th place on the list of options.

In reality, measures to save energy offer the biggest environmental benefits, far greater than sorting out bottles and cans for recycling – although we need to do that too, of course.

Director of INCPEN, Jane Bickerstaffe said, “It’s good to see that people now realise there are lots of other things, as well as recycling, that they can do to live more sustainably. However they are still not sure which actions make the most difference. Policy makers need to tell them where the biggest benefits are.”

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