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Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Gap Between Environmental Awareness and Environmental Behaviour

Source: http://ec.europa.eu
Almost all Belgians (97%) agree that it’s important to protect the environment, according to a survey published in November 2012 by Test-Achats/Test-Aankoop, the Belgian association for consumer protection.  But does this also mean that they act on it?

A Eurobarometer survey published back in 2008 by the European Commission shows that being concerned about the environment doesn’t necessarily make people take action.  This survey concluded that 96% of all Europeans attach great importance to protection of the environment.  It showed that 59% of all Europeans separate their waste for recycling – although for many this is now mandatory which should improve these figures.  47% had taken measures to reduce their energy consumption and 37% their water consumption.  28% had chosen a more environmentally-friendly way to travel and 17% were using their car less.

A paper from the University of Utrecht published in 2010 states that this gap is the result of socially and practically motivated behaviour.  A lot of our choices are motivated by the norms of the group, no matter what our own values are.  So this means that it’s possible for all individuals in a group to value a clean environment but that nobody questions why they do not separate their waste.  Practically motivated behaviour means that, for example, you may choose the cheapest product, regardless of its environmental impact. 

Test-Achats/Test-Aankoop concluded that low-income households don’t want to spend money on energy-efficient measures.  This is another information gap because many of these households don’t realise that energy-efficient measures save money in the long run.  This is where subsidies and tax incentives can really come in to help people make investments in energy-saving measures when they can’t set money aside for it.

Both the European Commission, the University of Utrecht and Test-Achats/Test-Aankoop conclude that there is the willingness to reduce our impact on the environment but that we really need to inform people more about the practical measures they can take.

Blog by Reiner Wils

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this great article, mister Wils!