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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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Residential Water Use

Although agriculture and industry represent the bulk of water demand, residential water use accounts for some 10-30% of total consumption in developed countries. This chapter 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 respondent’s environmental “norms” is also analysed, suggesting that measures informing households of the environmental implications of excessive water consumption could have a significant complementary part to play. In addition, the question of people’s perception of tap water quality is considered in the survey. The chapter presents results on household satisfaction with the quality of tap water and on their motivation to buy bottled water for drinking either for health reasons or for reasons of taste.

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