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Green house?

How much more would you be willing to pay for renewable energy? Are environmental concerns a factor in how much you use your car? And are you really thinking about the environment when you buy organic food? All these questions, and more, are at the heart of the 2008 survey which forms the basis of Greening Household Behaviour. A part of the OECD’s Green Growth Strategy, this survey covered 10,000 households across ten OECD countries to determine how our day-to-day relationship with the environment may affect reforms, and is due for another round in 2011.

Household pressures on the environment are expected to rise in the near future, thanks to consumption, so figuring out how to control these pressures will be crucial. The survey, which identifies the immediate impact of humdrum daily actions, such as buying food or driving a car, is intended to help policymakers in designing successful environmental strategies.

Focusing on such questions as residential water and energy use, waste generation, transport choices and organic food consumption, the survey stresses the importance of addressing both the supply and the demand side of environmental measures, and suggests various policy approaches. The first–and for the authors, the most important one–is to provide market-based incentives and penalities, through the likes of price increases or taxes, which have been shown to have an impact on water or energy consumption, for example. But to work, these initiatives need to be backed up by proper information, on why they are needed, which products or services are affected, and so on. More generally, green growth is viewed as a bottom-up process in this survey. If environmental reforms are to succeed, governments first need to find ways to integrate greener household behaviour as a socially-desirable norm. After all, charity is not the only thing that begins at home.

ISBN 978-92-64-06362-4


©OECD Observer No 284, Q1 2011