Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Encouraging greener living - Defra publishes Public Attitudes research

Encouraging greener living - Defra publishes Public Attitudes research

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (News Release ref :07/08) issued by The Government News Network on 14 January 2008

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has today published a framework to encourage environmentally friendly behaviour among individuals and communities.

The report pulls together evidence on public understanding, attitudes and behaviours and draws conclusions on the potential for behaviour change among members of the public.

Defra's environmental segmentation model is also included in the research. It divides the public into seven clusters, each sharing a distinct set of attitudes and beliefs towards the environment and is based on people's responses to a broad range of attitudinal questions as part of the 2007 Defra attitudes and behaviours survey.

The model will be used to improve Government's understanding of people's environmental attitudes, values and behaviours towards the environment. By defining the different motivations and barriers to pro-environmental behaviour, the model will help policy makers understand how to support different groups of people to take action.

Environment Minister Joan Ruddock said

"We all need to do our bit to tackle climate change. Most people want to do something but sometimes don't know how. This report will help Government and stakeholders reach people and empower them to make changes in their lives today that will make a big difference tomorrow."

In recognition of the important role the voluntary sector plays in influencing pro-environmental behaviour, Joan Ruddock also announced that a new grant scheme will be set up to support voluntary organisations to encourage people to adopt a greener lifestyle.

The report identifies 12 headline behaviour goals based on a range of low/high impact and easy/hard behaviours which could potentially engage large numbers of people and others which would be more appropriate for targeting particular population groups.

The 12 headline behaviours are:

* use more efficient vehicles;
* use your car less for short trips;
* avoid unnecessary short haul flights;
* use water responsibly;
* install insulation / microgeneration;
* manage your energy usage;
* recycle more;
* waste less food;
* buy energy efficient products;
* eat more food that is locally in season; and
* adopt a lower impact diet.

The report also looks at people's willingness to act on these headline goals. The results indicate that there are some behaviours, such as wasting less food and more responsible water usage, where most people are already willing and, in principle, able to act.

The more challenging behaviours, such as avoiding unnecessary flights or installing microgeneration for electricity, are those where there is relatively low willingness to act, or where there are external barriers to action.

Motivators and barriers vary across population groups and may change over time according to life stage and other individual circumstances. Common motivators for behaviour change include health or financial benefits, the 'feel good factor' and 'being part of something'. Common barriers include the need for activities to fit with people's current lifestyle and the difficulty of changing habits.

Stephen Hale, Director of the Green Alliance, said:

"2008 can be a landmark year for government action to help every one of us reduce our environmental impact. Government has a critical role in enabling us to act. This report demonstrates public support for action, and contains the evidence needed to design and implement new and successful policies."

Notes to Editors

1. Defra's Framework for Pro-environmental Behaviours is designed to support policy development and implementation in Defra, in other Government departments and externally.

2. The research can be found at:

3. 2007 Attitudes and Behaviour toward the Environment was carried out by British Market Research Bureau (BMRB)

4. The full report, completed for Defra by BMRB, follows National Statistics releases of headline survey results released on 14 August 2007, and results of questions on wellbeing on 27 July 2007.

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Defra's aim is sustainable development


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