Thursday, March 10, 2011

We think globally, don't act at all. The OECD on Australians

Considering energy costs when buying houses - Least overall

Believing individual actions can make a difference - Least overall

Using appliances in standby mode - Least overall

Proper disposal of hazardous household waste - Least overall

Use of the car to go shopping - Highest overall

Use of water per person - Highest after Canada

Satisfaction with tap water - Least apart from Mexico and Korea

We're in love with our cars, we leave electric appliances on standby, we don't like drinking our tap water and we can't see that much point in saving the environment.

The latest OECD comparison of the environmental behaviour of housholds in 10member nations puts Australia at or near the bottom on most of the questions asked.

Entitled Greening Household Behaviour the survey excludes the United States and United Kingdom 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 up 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 to climate change. By contrast in the least concerned nations, Netherlands and Norway, the ratings are between 20 and 30 per cent.

But we are relatively unprepared 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, and twice the 2.5 per cent in Canada and 2 per cent in Mexico.

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 to 30 per cent of Italians and 50 per cent of Czechs.

We are the most likely to leave our appliances on in standby mode 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 although only middle of the range when it comes to actually installing energy efficient products products.

Our recycling services are among the world's best, but we are the least likely of the nations surveyed to recycle household plastic, paper and glass and the second least likely to recycle metal. When it comes to hazardous waste we are the least likely to dispose of batteries properly and the second least likely to dispose of medicines properly.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development finds us one of the least satisfied with our with tap water of the 10 nations surveyed (only Mexico and Korea think less of their water) but also one of the least ready to reach for the bottle. An extraordinary 88 per cent of Canadians drink bottled water compared to 30 per cent of Australians.

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

Published in today's SMH and Age

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