How green is my house?
Sustainability is the big issue of our time. As politicians are coming to realise, the typical Australian consumer is much greener than many people realise.
More than three-quarters of Australians accept that climate change is a major problem for plants, although fewer think it will affect them personally.
Nearly half of Australians are prepared to pay more for their energy to help tackle climate change, though few are prepared to make too many sacrifices.
These findings are from Connection Research’s latest publication, Domestic Energy Consumption in Australia, a survey of more than 3,500 Australian consumers conducted in October and November 2008.
Respondents were asked about the number of electric and electronic devices in their homes, their energy consumption habits, and their attitudes on sustainability issues.
The report is the latest in Connection Research’s Connected Home and Sustainable Home series – now combined because of an increasing understanding that connectivity and green issues are increasingly intertwined.
At a time when we are filling our homes with energy-consuming equipment we are becoming more aware of the consequences. But are we prepared to do anything about it? Yes – and no.
Most people think they are greener than their neighbours. More than 40% believe their household consumes less electricity per person than the average, and only 10% believe they are consuming more than average.
It is only human to think that you’re better than the next person. Most people believe they are safer drivers than average, or that they have a better sense of humour than average.
Two-thirds of consumers believe that they and their household are doing enough to conserve energy; but only one-third think their community is doing enough, and less 16% think society as a whole is doing enough.
The farther we get from home, the lower the perception that others are pulling their weight.
One question in the survey illuminates the facts behind the move to more energy-efficient lighting in Australia.
There has been a big push in this area from industry and government in recent years, and it seems the message is getting through.
More than 30% of Australian homes have completely eliminated old-style incandescent light bulbs, and only 10% have more than 10 of them in their house. Fully 85% of people have moved wholly or partly to compact fluorescent lighting.
About two-thirds of houses have some conventional fluorescent lighting, and most have one or more outdoor spotlights. One-third have low-voltage halogen lights, but fewer than half number have high-voltage halogens.
The report also examined ownership rates of various electrical and electronic devices. Use of plasma and LCD televisions continues to rise as prices drop and the perception changes from luxury to necessity.
Flat panel TVs are found in more than half of all households, compared with just one-third a year ago. Most are connected to an amplifier or some sort of home cinema system.
Most homes have at least one PC, and more than half have two or more. Laptops are now more popular than desktops, and most of these computers have a printer.
Nearly half of all Australian households have more than one fridge. About half have a dishwasher. Two-thirds have a clothes dryer and two-thirds a stand-alone freezer.
Nearly half have reverse cycle air conditioning, but fewer than 10% have solar hot water.
People realise they have a lot of gadgets and devices but most do try to conserve energy.
More than three-quarters say they hang washing on the line when possible rather than using a clothes dryer, and a similar number try to switch off lights more than they used to, and turn their computers off when they are not in use.
But only one-third turn devices with a ‘stand by’ mode off at the wall to save on power.
The report looks at many other aspects of behaviour and consumption. A consistent picture emerges of an affluent society awash with labour-saving devices, entertainment systems and creature comforts.
There is a strong awareness that all this luxury comes at some cost to the environment, and there is a desire to do the right thing.
But most people believe they are doing more than they actually are.