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Greening Household Behaviour

The Role of Public Policy

image of Greening Household Behaviour

Developing growth strategies that promote greener lifestyles requires a good understanding of what factors affect people’s behaviour towards the environment. Recent OECD work based on periodic surveys of more than 10 000 households across a number of countries and areas represents a breakthrough by providing a common framework to collect unique empirical evidence for better policy design.

This publication presents responses from the most recent round of the OECD survey implemented in 2011 in 5 areas (energy, food, transport, waste and water) and 11 countries: Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Israel, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Analysis comparing the data across countries, policy conditions and households’ characteristics reveals which measures most effectively change behaviour. Each round of the survey also allows to track changes over time and to explore new emerging issues.  

The new survey confirms the importance of providing the right economic incentives for influencing our decisions. The findings indicate that “soft” measures such as labelling and public information campaigns also have a significant complementary role to play. Spurring desirable behaviour change requires a mix of these instruments. 

This book is a milestone for all those interested by the challenging question of ways to promote greener behaviour, from policy makers to individual citizens.  

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Policies, Environmental Norms and Household Characteristics

Projections indicate that households’ impacts on the environment are likely to increase in the future. As governments develop environmental policies to promote greener behaviour, the OECD survey offers insight into what affects our decisions and what really works in five areas: water use, energy use, personal transport choices, organic food consumption, and waste generation and recycling. Before turning to the presentation of the main results, this introductory chapter reviews some of the main factors that are likely to have an impact on households’ environmental practices and behaviour. The political context is first examined with the wide range of policy measures used by OECD countries to influence decision-making. Particular attention is also paid to the role of environmental attitudes and norms, improving our understanding of how policy makers can choose instruments to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of policies.

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