I consume, I love the environment

A higher level of education makes a person more likely to respond to environmental issues by a consumerist behavior – paying attention to what they buy – rather than with day-by-day actions, such as turning off lights.

It’s what the Understanding Society, the world’s largest household panel survey, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and managed by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex, has found out with a research based on data from more than 22,000 individuals in the UK.

People with degrees are 25% more likely, on average, than people with no education qualifications to accept paying more for environmentally-friendly products. However, they are less likely to turn off the TV overnight or to use public transport.

Some 60% of people surveyed believed a major environmental disaster is pending if things continue on their current course. Just over half the respondents (53%), though, say they ‘do quite a few things that are environmentally friendly’ or are ‘environmentally friendly in most things or everything’ they do. People’s willingness to behave in an environmentally-friendly way comes with conditions as 59% of those surveyed agreed that ‘any changes I make to help the environment need to fit in with my lifestyle’ and just half (50%) would be prepared to pay more for environmentally friendly products.

The survey found that women are more likely than men to adopt pro-environmental behaviours, for example they are 4% more likely, on average, to be willing to pay more for environmentally-friendly products. At the same time, though, the presence of dependent children in the household is associated with a lower willingness to pay more for environmentally friendly products.

Employed people seem less likely to adopt pro-environmental behaviours – especially by putting on more clothes when cold and reducing the frequency of flights – than people who are outside the labour market.

Understanding Society also reveals that a significant minority have a defeatist attitude towards combating climate change. One in five (21%) think that it is too late to do anything about climate change and nearly a third (29%) believe it is not worth Britain trying to combat climate change, because other countries will just cancel out what we do.

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