Table of Contents

  • Governments everywhere are taking steps to encourage people to take environmental impacts into account in their daily life and purchases. But do these measures have any measureable effect? Are they leading to more sustainable consumption patterns? And how does environmental behaviour differ across households?

  • Household consumption patterns and behaviour have a profound effect on stocks of natural resources and the quality of the environment. The importance of taking the demand side into account is a key lesson arising from the OECD’s Green Growth Strategy. Governments of OECD member countries have introduced a wide variety of measures to encourage people to take environmental impacts into account in their purchases and practices. These may include environment-related taxes, energy efficiency standards for homes and appliances, fuel economy standards for vehicles, CO2 emission labels for cars, and financial support to invest in solar panels. Nevertheless, influencing households remains a challenge for policy makers. Developing growth strategies that promote greener lifestyles requires an improved understanding of the consequences of such policy measures on households’ decisions.

  • Personal behaviour and choices in daily life, from what we eat to how we get to work or heat our homes, have a significant effect on the environment. Their impacts are likely to intensify over the coming years without stronger and better-targeted policy efforts. How should governments respond? We need to intensify our efforts at developing growth strategies that promote and win support for more environmentally benign lifestyles and consumption patterns.

  • This chapter reviews some of the main policies implemented by governments to influence household behaviour in five areas: energy use, water consumption, waste generation and recycling, food consumption and personal transport choices. It presents respondents’ perceptions of policies in place and also provides an overview of measures which were actually adopted in the eleven countries when the OECD Survey on Environmental Policy and Individual Behaviour Change (EPIC) was implemented in 2011. The use of unit-based charging for environmental services is examined for waste collection, water use and electricity consumption. Differences across the countries surveyed are presented about charging systems in place, provision of grants to encourage households to invest in eco-friendly equipment, use of eco-labels and access to infrastructures such as collection services for recyclable materials and public transport. Keeping this broad picture in mind, and also some country-specific aspects, is essential when reviewing the data collected.

  • This chapter focuses on survey findings concerning households’ attitudes towards the environment and how socio-demographic factors such as age, education or relative income relate to environmental attitudes and values. Involvement in volunteer organisations and trust in different information sources are also examined in relation to environmental attitudes. In addition, the importance of environmental concerns relative to other sets of global issues is examined, as well as the perceived importance attributed to different environmental issues such climate change or natural resource depletion. Variations in respondents’ satisfaction with different attributes of their local environment (air, water, waste, among others) are also examined. Cluster analysis is applied to the survey data revealing that the respondents can be grouped into three large categories: the environmentally motivated, environmental sceptics and technological optimists.

  • This chapter reviews the evidence collected in the survey on households’ energy-related behaviour and their responses to various types of policies targeting renewable energy and energy efficiency. It also examines differences in behaviour across households and the effect of norms and attitudes, such as the perception of environmental issues.

  • This chapter presents an overview of the data on the determinants of households’ personal transport choices. It examines the effects of various types of public policies influencing transport demand, such as financial incentives to buy cleaner vehicles or car labelling. It also looks at differences in behaviour across households and the effect of norms and attitudes.

  • This chapter presents an overview of the survey data on the determinants of households’ water use and looks at the impacts of policy measures such as water pricing and appliance labelling. It examines the determinants of water-saving behaviour and investment in water-saving appliances and whether having to pay for water according to volume actually reduces consumption. The role of respondents’ environmental norms is also analysed.

  • This chapter looks at the impact of instruments directly targeting consumers’ choices concerning food consumption, such as organic labelling and raising awareness through public information campaigns. It provides a better understanding of the main determinants for consuming organic food and products that take animal welfare into account, and examines how much more households are willing to pay for these products.

  • This chapter presents an overview of the survey data on the determinants of households’ waste-related behaviour and examines the impact of waste charges and recycling programmes on waste generation and separation rates and waste prevention efforts. The role of general attitudes towards the environment in influencing household behaviour is considered as well.

  • This concluding chapter analyses selected issues cutting across the thematic areas examined in the survey (energy, transport, water, food and waste) and time. It looks at how willingness-to-pay patterns differ from one environmental good to the other (e.g. electric cars, green electricity and organic food). It also examines motivations to conserve energy and water. In addition, the chapter provides a comparison of some questions for the six countries involved in the two rounds of the Survey on Environmental Policy and Individual Behaviour Change (EPIC).