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- Who cares? An exploration of attitudes and behaviour towards the conservation of resources
- Newton, Peter W.; Meyer, Denny
- A major question mark continues to surround the issue of whether individuals and households in high income countries and regions such as Australia, North America and Western Europe are prepared to make voluntary changes in their consumption practices in order to enable transition to more environmentally sustainable societies in the 21st century. In such societies, it has been the high level of consumption of resources---directly by households in relation to their energy and water use, purchase of housing space, furnishings and appliances, travel, and so on, and indirectly by the material resource flows that underpin their built environments (construction of housing, urban infrastructure, and so on)---that has delivered highly liveable cities and lifestyles. This is not a sustainable position, however, in a resource-constrained and climate-constrained world that will add 50% to its 2000 population by 2050, where residents of developing countries (China and India in particular), as well as under-developed societies, aspire to standards of living similar to those in the West, and where residents of Western societies will desperately attempt to retain theirs. Most research to date has occurred on the supply side and has focused on issues such as sustainable design (buildings and infrastructure) as well as sustainable production (manufacturing and assembly). But there has been much less effort devoted to the demand side and to the question of sustainable consumption, which can be defined as: 'a balancing act, consuming in such a way as to protect the environment, use natural resources wisely and promote quality of life now, while not spoiling the lives of future generations'. This is notwithstanding a raft of reports that continue to point to increasing levels of domestic resource consumption. In this chapter, we use the data collected in the ARC-funded Living in Melbourne survey to examine the following issues: (1) the variability in information and knowledge that individuals hold about the environmental 'performance' of the dwelling where they live; (2) the spectrum of attitudes to environment reflected by the respondents (that feature in the lifestyle typologies); (3) the level of concern expressed for the environment; (4) the intentions that households indicate will likely be reflected in their future consumption behaviour; (5) the actions that households are actually taking to enhance their environmental performance (compared with intentions---exposing the nature and scale of any intention-action gap); (6) The barriers that are preventing behaviour change to more environmentally sustainable patterns of consumption. A principal feature of the chapter is its development of a typology of environmental lifestyles based on the revealed environmental attitudes, values and intentions of the respondents. We then proceed to examine the extent to which such a construct can explain variations in the levels of per person consumption represented within the Living in Melbourne survey sample. In other words, it examines whether there is congruence between stated environmental attitudes and intentions and actual consumption behaviour. Do actions speak louder than words?
- Publication type
- Book chapter
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Life and Social Sciences. Institute for Social Research
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology
- Urban consumption / Peter W. Newton (ed.), Chapter 18, pp. 267-290
- Publication year
- CSIRO Publishing
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2011. The published version of this book chapter is reproduced here with the kind permission of the publisher for non-commercial purposes only. No further re-use is permitted.