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Australians the least likely to turn off standby

Worried, but doing little

Peter Martin

March 10, 2011

WE LOVE our cars, leave appliances on standby, don’t like drinking tap water and can’t see much point in saving the environment. The latest OECD comparison of the environmental behaviour of households in 10 member nations puts Australia at or near the bottom on most questions.

The Greening Household Behaviour survey excludes the US and Britain but includes countries similar to Australia, such as Canada and France, as well as less similar nations, such as Mexico and Korea.

When it comes to concern, we are among the most worried. Between 40 and 50 per cent of Australians are ”very concerned” about a range of issues from waste generation to air pollution and climate change. By contrast, in the least concerned nations, the Netherlands and Norway, the ratings are between 20 and 30 per cent. But we are unlikely to believe we can do anything about it. Almost 5 per cent of us think there’s no point in taking action as individuals or households, more than in any nation surveyed.

In our homes, we use more water than anyone apart from Canadians. When we buy our homes, we are the least likely to take into account their energy costs. Only 20 per cent of us make the calculation compared with 30 per cent of Italians and 50 per cent of Czechs.

We are the most likely to leave our appliances on standby and one of the least likely to turn down the heat. On the plus side, we are the most likely to recognise an energy efficiency label – but middle of the range when it comes to installing energy efficient products.

We are the least likely to recycle household plastic, paper and glass and the second least likely to recycle metal.

And we adore our cars. With 2.6 per family, we are beaten only by Italy, which has 2.7. About 85 per cent of us use our cars to get to shops, more than anyone else.