Britain’s Greenest Location

Redland Grove

The Guardian reports on a study that Redland in Bristol has the highest proportion of residents worried about the environment and trying to do something about it. Yet it also has one of the highest negative impacts on the environment because the people living there are affluent and the recycling they do does not counteract their extra spending.

“A study earlier this year by Exeter University…reported that people who claimed to have the greenest lifestyles were often some of the main culprits behind global warming. Stewart Barr, who led the research, told the Guardian: “Green living is largely something of a myth.”

Is there a way around this?

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4 Responses to Britain’s Greenest Location

  1. matt says:

    Yes, ‘green living’ as it’s called is currently a choice available to the ‘middle classes’ and will only become more entrenched with legislation and scale of economies so that greener choices are no more expensive. This takes time.

    Of course ‘greener living’ could simply be interpreted as better use of and choice of resources, which the strain on resources is more likely to influence ‘greener living’ anyway.

    The concern regards changing consumer habits for the better comes when savings from with disposable income (e.g. lower heating costs from investing in insulation) are simply spent elsewhere on further wasteful and destructive consumerism. Studies have shown this is ultimately what happens which I guess the Guardian article is alluding to.

  2. keithsc says:

    Yes that seems to me the crucial question. As we have more disposable income (which won’t be this year for many people) will this inevitably be spent on more consumerism which will lead to greater pressure on the environment and more pressure on climate change. yet as Grit rightly points out it is important that the majority of the world’s population gain the advantages that we have here. Does increased wealth automatically mean greater pressure on the environment? Can we spend in a truly green way or is this ultimately always self defeating as this study suggests? And if we can why aren’t we even when we are trying to?

  3. keithsc says:

    From Science for Environmental Policy 8 January 2009

    Encouraging energy conservation in the home

    Despite high levels of environmental concern in the EU, domestic energy use continues to rise. A recent study has examined the psychology behind energy usage and behaviour change to help inform energy strategies.

    There are two key strategies for changing the behaviour of the public. Psychological strategies aim to change an individual’s views and motivations through education, whereas structural strategies such as taxation, legal changes or product development, target the context in which decisions are made, thereby changing the pros and cons of different behaviours. Most information campaigns only inspire small changes, but information targeted at specific groups and structural strategies may be more effective. For example, despite prior surveys suggesting otherwise, the London congestion charging scheme has considerably reduced traffic levels in the city.

    The study explains that individuals must be (i) aware of the need, (ii) motivated and (iii) able to change their behaviour. Householders need to be aware of the environmental need for energy conservation policies as well as feeling a greater personal responsibility for tackling the problem.

    Policies which increase choice and efficiency are more popular than restrictive or prohibitive policies, and individuals are more likely to adopt new behaviours which require little expense or effort. They will give up the new behaviour if it ceases to be cost-effective. Restrictive policies are unpopular with consumers, and therefore with politicians, who fear reductions in individual freedom and wealth. However, in reality the overall quality of life may change little due to environmental gain, in cases such as transport and energy consumption.

    Information campaigns have increased awareness of climate change, but many people still do not fully understand energy consumption. For example, they may believe that all larger appliances use more energy, or they may underestimate the amount of energy needed to heat water.

    Households consume around 15-20 per cent of total energy in OECD countries, around half of which is used directly, i.e. gas, electricity and fuel used to run appliances or drive cars. The rest is used indirectly, i.e. the energy consumed creating and supplying goods and services. Around 75 per cent of domestic use is for heating homes and water, 16 per cent for appliances, 6 per cent for lighting and 5 per cent for cooking.

    There is little detailed information about indirect energy use, but it should be a priority for targeting coherent conservation efforts across consumers and suppliers. Further research into energy conservation strategies is recommended by the study due to the lack of detailed evaluation of previous strategies.

    Source: Steg, L. (2008). Promoting household energy conservation. Energy Policy. 36:4449-4453.

    Contact: e.m.steg@rug.nl

  4. matt says:

    Thanks for this Keith.

    Interesting to see little analysis has been done thus far on energy conservation strategies. Also that most effort has been put into the smaller energy use areas of lighting and appliances. Obviously the heating and hot water areas are harder nuts to crack. Cost of alternatives are too expensive at the moment and breaking through into better econonmies of scale (lower price) is going to be difficult when EU manufacturers are encouraging protectionist measures against cheaper Chinese imports of solar panels and the like.

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