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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2007  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2007   
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Contents >> Environment and Heritage >> Environmental views and behaviour in Australian households

ENVIRONMENTAL VIEWS AND BEHAVIOUR IN AUSTRALIAN HOUSEHOLDS

CONCERN ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS

Notwithstanding recent issues such as drought, bushfires, water reform, climate change and native vegetation featuring prominently in the media, Australians' level of concern about environmental problems has continued to decline. In 2004, 57% of Australians aged 18 years and over reported concern about environmental problems, down from a high of 75% in 1992.

In 2004, those aged 45-54 years expressed the most concern about environmental problems (65%) and those 65 years and over the least (47%). Graph 24.27 shows that, for every age group, the passage of time saw a decline in the proportion of people concerned about environmental problems. This change in attitude comes at a time when evidence suggests that significant environmental degradation continues to occur to land and water systems in Australia.

24.27 CONCERN ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS 24.27 CONCERN ABOUT ENVIRONMENT PROBLEMS


HOUSEHOLD WATER CONSERVATION PRACTICES back

Drought and water restrictions in many parts of Australia have focused attention on the need to conserve household water. Nearly three-quarters of all households (74%) had dual flush toilets in 2004, up from 64% in 2001. Reduced flow shower heads were installed in 44% of households (up from 35% in 2001). Nearly one in five households (18%) had neither a dual flush toilet nor a reduced flow shower head, down from nearly one in three (27%) in 2001 (graph 24.28).

24.28 WATER CONSERVATION DEVICES USED 24.28 WATER CONSERVATION DEVICES USED


Nearly half of all households (46%) reported using one or more water conservation practice in 2004. The most popular measures adopted included using full loads when washing dishes and clothes, and taking shorter showers (18% of all households reported doing each of these). Recycling and/or reusing water was reported by 16% of all households, up from 11% in 2001 (graph 24.29). These measures were particularly popular in Victoria, where more than one-quarter of households undertook these activities.

24.29 WATER CONSERVATION PRACTICES TAKEN IN HOME 24.29 WATER CONSERVATION PRACTICES TAKEN IN HOME


Seeking further reductions in household water use in major cities to ensure availability, a number of state and territory governments have introduced incentives to encourage households to conserve water. This has involved continuing water restrictions into 2006, as well as new schemes that require or reward the installation of water-saving devices such as dual flush toilets.

Australia has the first scheme of its kind in the world for the water efficiency labelling of appliances. Introduced in August 2004, the Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme requires mandatory water efficiency labels on all shower heads, washing machines, toilets, dishwashers, urinals and some types of taps.

Outdoor water use (in gardens and swimming pools) accounted for about 44% of the total household water use in 2000-01. Households in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory reported using more than 50% of the household water outdoors in 2000-01. In New South Wales, a quarter of household water was used for outdoor purposes. Households in Victoria used more than a third of their total water for outdoor purposes. These differences can be partly explained by the smaller individual block sizes and the proportion of households with no outdoor facilities in more densely populated areas of these states, as well as by climatic differences between regions.

In 2004, nine out of ten households with gardens reported conserving water in the garden. Mulching was the most popular water conserving practice, used by nearly six out of ten households.

Nearly one-quarter (23%) of households reported watering either early in the morning or late in the evening to conserve water in the garden (graph 24.30). Also, the use of hand watering instead of a sprinkler system increased from 66% to 71% from 2001 to 2004. There was a corresponding decrease in the use of fixed and movable sprinklers (from 28% in 2001 down to 15% in 2004 for movable sprinklers, and 31% down to 22% for fixed sprinkler systems). This is likely to be attributable mainly to the introduction of water restrictions on use of sprinklers and restricted watering times.

24.30 WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES APPLIED IN GARDEN 24.30 WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES APPLIED IN GARDEN

Significantly more households reported using recycled water on the garden in 2004 compared with 2001 (18% in 2004, up from 11% in 2001), planting native shrubs or trees (17%, up from 10%) and not watering the garden at all (10%, up from 6%). States and territories that significantly increased their use of recycled water on the garden since 2001 included New South Wales (9% to 19%), Victoria (13% to 23%) and the Australian Capital Territory (7% to 26%).

Rainwater tanks aid self-sufficiency as they may provide an alternative water source. Most states and territories offered a rebate to householders that install a rainwater tank.

In 2004, 17% of all households had a rainwater tank (graph 24.31). In capital cities, nearly one in ten households sourced water from a rainwater tank, compared with nearly three in ten households not in a capital city. Only 5% of households relied on the tanks as their main source of water for gardening, compared with 85% who used mains or town water as their main source of garden water.

24.31 HOUSEHOLDS WITH RAINWATER TANKS - 2004 24.31 HOUSEHOLDS WITH RAINWATER TANKS - 2004


The proportion of households with a garden has declined from 87% in 1994 to 83% in 2004 (graph 24.32). This is consistent with a move towards higher density housing. At the same time there has been a growing trend of building bigger houses on smaller blocks - the so-called 'McMansion' phenomenon. The average size of the block of land on which new houses are built has fallen from a site area of 802 square metres (m2) in 1993-94 to 735 m2 in 2003-04. At the same time, the floor size of houses has been increasing, with popular extras such as a fourth bedroom, rumpus room, and ensuite adding to the overall size of modern homes (see the article Australian Home Size is Growing in Year Book Australia 2005) .

24.32 HOUSEHOLDS WITH GARDENS 24.32 HOUSEHOLDS WITH GARDENS


USE OF TRANSPORT

The pattern of settlement in Australia has led to a reliance on motor vehicle transport. For urban commuters, private vehicles (i.e. cars, trucks, vans, motorbikes) offer a convenient, reliable and fast means of travel. For industry, road transport offers a flexible means for the delivery of inputs needed for production and the distribution of goods.

The flexibility and convenience of road transport comes at an environmental cost. For example, motor vehicles create air pollution and, in particular, greenhouse gas emissions. People who are 18 years and over, and work or study, mostly use private vehicles for transport (graph 24.33). In March 2003, 75% of these people travelled to work or study by private vehicle. Approximately 12% used public transport and 5% walked or cycled. Around 8% did not travel at all as they either worked or studied at home or within an educational institution (e.g. students at university colleges).

24.33 MAIN FORM OF TRANSPORT TO WORK OR STUDY 24.33 MAIN FORM OF TRANSPORT TO WORK OR STUDY


ENERGY SOURCES IN DWELLINGS

The amount and type of energy used in the home has considerable implications for the environment. The production of energy can deplete natural resources, generate greenhouse emissions and pollute the air. Increasing awareness of these problems has led to the introduction and use of alternative energy sources (e.g. solar energy). Measures to reduce energy demand such as the use of off-peak electricity are also encouraged.

Natural gas and electricity continue to be the key energy sources for room heating, water heating and cooking (graph 24.34). In 2005, 78% of Australian residences had room heating. However, gas (33%) and electricity (32%) were almost equally preferred for room heating ahead of wood (12%). Households relied more heavily on electricity for room heating in Tasmania (55%), New South Wales (44%) and South Australia (42%).

24.34 MAIN SOURCE OF ENERGY FOR ROOM HEATING 24.34 MAIN SOURCE OF ENERGY FOR ROOM HEATING


Electricity was the primary energy source for household cooking (54%) throughout Australia (graph 24.35). Use of electricity for this purpose was more pronounced outside of the capital cities (68%) than within them (47%).

24.35 MAIN SOURCE OF ENERGY FOR COOKING 24.35 MAIN SOURCE OF ENERGY FOR COOKING


Electricity was also the primary energy source for hot water systems (51%) in households (graph 24.36) and more pronounced outside of the capital cities (68%) than within them (41%).

24.36 SOURCES OF ENERGY FOR WATER HEATING 24.36 SOURCES OF ENERGY FOR WATER HEATING


Solar energy is primarily used in Australia for heating water. It was utilised by 4% of all households in 2005, with the Northern Territory having the largest proportion of households (42%) using solar energy to heat water. Solar energy for water heating was also popular with Western Australia households (16%).

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