Headlines: January 15th, 2008

Almost one fifth of the population of the UK are a deep shade of green with a high level of concern for the environment and a commitment to doing whatever possible to tackle climate change. This finding comes from a report from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs aimed at encouraging environmentally friendly behaviour among individuals and communities.

The report is based on a survey of attitudes and behaviours towards the environment in areas such as transport usage, including cars and planes; use of water and energy and views on waste.

As well as the deep green group, the survey found that two other groups of people amounting to 28 per cent, described as concerned supporters and sideline supporters are also able and willing to change their behaviour. These groups do need motivation for example by engaging them through communications, community action and targeting individual opinion leaders. Barriers such as lack of information and facilities also need to be removed. Putting the three groups together means that almost half the population have a high potential to do more for the environment.

The survey also identified a ‘waste watcher’ group and a further group of ‘cautious participants’ who were ‘willing to do a couple of things to help the environment, as long as they saw others were doing something’. These two groups, amounting to almost a quarter of respondents, are thought to have some potential to contributing to environmental action.

The third cluster of groups, amounting to under one fifth of respondents include the ‘Stalled starters’ with the attitude of ‘I don’t know much about climate change’ and the ‘Honestly disengaged’ who take the view that: ‘Maybe there’ll be an environmental disaster, maybe not. Makes no difference to me’.

Motivators to encourage people to consider the environment include ‘the feel good factor’, social norm, and individual benefits such as health and financial outlay. Ease of changing behaviour and being part of something, can also motivate people. Common barriers to behaviour change include cost, working patterns, demands on time, habits, scepticism and disempowerment.

The insight into behaviour set out in the report will form a framework for further action by the Department and it will be shared with delivery partners at national, regional and local level. There will also be work with key partners to identify new opportunities for partnership working, for example embedding the framework within the Department’s third sector strategy.

The report is available from Defra. http://www.defra.gov.uk/evidence/social/behaviour/pdf/behaviours-jan08-report.pdf