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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1997  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/06/1997   
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Contents >> Housing >> Housing & Lifestyle: Environment & the home

Housing and Lifestyle: Environment and the Home

Between 1973-74 and 1993-94, residential energy consumption per person increased by 16%.

Substantial consumption of goods and services takes place in the home. Households consume foodstuffs and products, use various energy sources for power and heating, and various water sources for drinking, washing and maintaining gardens. This consumption is increasing and has considerable implications for the environment, in relation to depletion of natural resources, and the generation of greenhouse gas emissions, waste materials, and other pollutants1. However, many households are using strategies to minimise their consumption of energy and production of waste, and hence their impact on the environment2.


Energy consumption

Energy consumption in the home involves the use of various energy sources, including electricity, gas, wood, heating oil and solar energy. In this review, energy units are measured in joules (J) or watt-hours (Wh).

Gigajoule (GJ): one thousand million joules of energy.
Tetrajoule (TJ): one million million joules of energy.
Petajoule (PJ): one thousand million million joules of energy.
Gigawatt-hour (GWh): one thousand million watt-hours of energy.


Energy consumption
Residential energy consumption per person in Australia has increased by 16%, from 17 gigajoules (GJ) in 1973-74 to 20 GJ in 1993-94. This rise is related an increase in the average size of dwellings, and a decrease in the number of people per dwelling.

Total residential energy consumption in Australia increased by 51%, from 231 petajoules (PJ) in 1973-74 to 349 PJ in 1993-94. This increase is predominantly the result not only of this higher energy consumption per person, but also population growth and the associated increase in the number of dwellings (see Australian Social Trends 1996 Australia's population growth). Between 1971 and 1991 the number of dwellings in Australia increased from 3.7 million to 5.9 million. An increased use of household appliances has also contributed to this increase in energy consumption.

Between 1984 and 1994, the average size of new private houses increased by 15%. Larger residential dwellings may require greater energy consumption for heating and cooling. Between 1947 and 1994, the average number of persons per dwelling declined from four to three. This decrease reduced the potential for energy sharing in households.

As a proportion of total energy use, residential energy consumption declined slightly from 8.8% in 1973-74 to 8.4% in 1993-94. By 2009-10, residential energy consumption per person is projected to increase to 22 GJ, a further 10% from 1993-94 levels. Taking into account population growth, total residential energy consumption is projected

RESIDENTIAL ENERGY CONSUMPTION

Per person
Total
Proportion of total energy consumption
Year
GJ
PJ
%

1973-74
16.9
231.3
8.8
1993-94
19.6
349.3
8.4
2009-10(a)
21.6
459.7
8.3

(a) Projected.

Source: Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics, Australian Energy Consumption and Production, quoted in Australians and the Environment (cat. no. 4601.0).


Energy source and use
Different energy sources have different impacts on the environment. For example, most of the electricity generated in Australia is derived from fossil fuels, and contributes to greenhouse emissions and resource depletion. Conversely, solar energy is renewable and non-polluting. However, unlike electricity, solar energy is not widely utilised because of relatively higher establishment costs.

In 1993-94, electricity, natural gas, and wood were the main sources of energy used in dwellings. They accounted for 43%, 28%, and 23% respectively of total residential energy consumed, compared to 31% and 10% in 1973-74. 25% of all electricity and 14% of all gas produced in 1993-94 was used for residential purposes.

In 1993-94, wood accounted for 23% of total residential energy consumed, down from 32% in 1973-74. Over the same period, the use of heating oil also declined sharply. The use of solar energy increased but still represented less than 1% of total residential energy use. Most of the wood, heating oil and solar energy used was for residential purposes.

In 1993-94, 30% of households used electricity as the main source of fuel to heat their dwellings. 28% of households used mains gas and a further 18% used wood. Only 3% of households used heating oil as their main heating source.

The majority of households (62%) also used electricity to heat water, while another 31% used mains gas. 5% of households used solar energy to heat water.

RESIDENTIAL ENERGY CONSUMPTION

1973-74
1993-94
2009-10(a)
Residential consumption in 1993-94
Residential as a proportion of total consumption in 1993-94
Fuel type
%
%
%
PJ
%

Electricity
30.7
42.5
44.6
148.3
24.6
Natural gas
10.2
28.3
35.2
98.7
13.5
Wood and wood waste
32.3
23.4
15.4
81.6
76.2
Heating oil
11.7
1.1
0.4
3.9
83.0
Solar
0.0
0.7
1.0
2.4
100.0
Other
15.1(b)
4.1
3.3
14.4
n.a.
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
349.3
8.4

(a) Projected.
(b) Mainly coal and coal products.

Source: Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics, Australian Energy Consumption and Production, quoted in Australians and the Environment (cat. no. 4601.0).

FORM OF FUEL USED BY HOUSEHOLDS, 1994

Space heating(a)
Water heating
Source
%
%

Electricity
29.7
62.3
Mains gas
28.4
30.7
Wood
17.6
. .
Heating oil
3.1
. .
Bottled gas
3.4
2.8
Solar
0.1
4.9
Other(b)
1.5
2.3
No heating
16.2
. .
Total households
100.0
100.0(c)
'000
'000
Total households
6,414.5
6,414.5

(a) Main form of heating in dwelling.
(b) Includes unknown gas source.
(c) Components do not add to total as households may have more than one form of water heating.

Source: Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices (cat. no. 4602.0).


International comparison
National residential energy consumptions vary. Cultural attitudes, energy prices, housing types, and climates vary greatly between countries, causing differences in the amount and types of energy consumed by households.

Of the countries selected, Sweden had the highest rate of residential electricity consumption per 1,000 population and Canada had the highest rate of residential gas consumption per 1,000 population. Australia was ranked 6th and 5th, respectively.
RESIDENTIAL ENERGY CONSUMPTION, 1994

Electricity
Gas
Country
rate(a)
rate(b)

Australia
2.3
5.6
Canada
4.5
21.3
France
1.9
6.7
Germany
1.5
11.0
Greece
1.0
0.01
Italy
1.0
13.8
Japan
1.8
2.8
New Zealand
3.0
1.3
Sweden
4.8
0.4
UK
1.7
20.4
USA
3.9
20.2

(a) GWh per 1,000 population.
(b) TJ per 1,000 population.

Source: International Energy Agency, Energy Statistics of OECD Countries, 1993-1994; United Nations , Demographic Yearbook 1994.

Energy conservation
Although residential energy consumption has increased over time, many households use strategies to save energy. These include: insulation; window treatments; using cold water for washing clothes; and reducing clothes dryer usage. Also, many households consider energy ratings when purchasing appliances. Household energy conservation methods varied between the States, mainly because of their different climates.

In 1994, 52% of all dwellings had some form of insulation. 51% had insulation in the roof and ceiling, and 13% had insulation in the walls. Floor and other forms of insulation were not common. The Australian Capital Territory had the highest proportion of insulated dwellings (80%), followed by South Australia (72%) and Victoria (70%). Queensland (29%) and the Northern Territory (44%) had the lowest proportions of insulated dwellings. In both the Northern Territory and Queensland, around 30% of owner households without insulation indicated that it was not needed because of the climate.

In 1994, 45% of all households used some form of window treatment. Outside awnings or shutters were used by 28% of households, and 20% had boxed pelmets on curtains or blinds. Residents in the hotter climates (Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory) made the greatest use of tinted and solar-guarded windows.

In 1994, over half (56%) of households in Australia received winter sunlight in their lounge, living, or family room. In general, in those States and Territories which experience a more severe winter climate, dwellings were designed to let in more sunlight during the winter months. This was particularly true of dwellings in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

In 1994, 61% of all households with a washing machine used cold water. Over one third (36%) of households with a clothes dryer used it only occasionally or rarely. Also, 36% of all households considered appliance energy ratings when replacing or acquiring appliances.

SELECTED ENERGY CONSERVATION METHODS USED BY HOUSEHOLDS, 1994

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.
Method
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Insulation
44.5
69.5
28.5
72.2
52.0
62.7
43.9
79.5
52.1
Window treatments
39.0
51.7
45.6
53.8
43.2
32.9
42.4
41.3
45.0
Solar exposure(a)
57.3
60.6
51.3
49.0
50.9
76.7
42.8
76.6
56.4
Cold water used in washing machine(b)
69.4
47.5
73.0
48.1
59.1
58.6
70.3
61.1
61.2
Clothes dryer used only occasionally or rarely(b)
35.3
34.7
34.7
37.0
42.1
39.3
39.7
35.1
35.8
Considering energy rating of appliances if purchased appliances
39.2
37.7
31.3
37.7
32.6
35.7
27.2
47.2
36.5

(a) In lounge/living/family rooms.
(b) Only includes households with this appliance.

Source: Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices (cat. no. 4602.0).


Methods of energy conservation in the household

Insulation and window treatments create a thermal barrier to reduce the rate of transfer of heat, from the interior to the exterior of a house in the winter, and from the exterior to the interior in summer. Roofs, ceilings, walls, and floors can all be insulated and the savings can be approximately 20% of summer cooling and 25% of winter heating energy costs. Window treatments like outside awnings or shutters, or reflective coatings on glass (tinting/solar guarding) reduce cooling energy costs by reducing the rate of heat transfer in summer. Window treatments like double glazing or boxed pelmets on curtains or blinds reduce heating energy costs by reducing the rate of heat transfer in winter.

Solar exposure is direct sunlight that is allowed to enter and be trapped by a dwelling. The more solar exposure a dwelling receives, the less other energy sources will be required for space heating.

Energy can be saved when washing and drying clothes if households use cold water and use clothes dryers less frequently.

Choosing energy efficient appliances involves consumers comparing the energy efficiency ratings of different brands and models of the same capacity and selecting those which have the highest rating.


Water sources and consumption
Access to clean water is essential for all households. However, mains/town water in Australia is not available in infinite supply, nor is it universally available. Some households rely on other sources, while many others are attempting to save mains/town water by supplementing it with water from other sources.

Mains/town water was a water source for 93% of households in 1994. However, only 86% of households in Tasmania used mains/town water. Around 15% of households used rainwater tanks as one of their sources of water, with South Australian households most likely to do so (48%). Only 5% of households used bore water as one of their sources of water, with Western Australian households most likely to do so (21%).

In 1994, towns/mains water was the predominant source of water used for drinking (84%). However, 33% of households connected to mains/town water were dissatisfied with the quality of this water for drinking. Dissatisfaction with mains/town water for drinking was highest in South Australia (51%) and is reflected in the highest use of rainwater and bottled water for drinking, at 37% and 8% respectively.

Mains/town water was also the predominant water source used for gardens (73%), and bathing and washing (92%) in 1994. 18% of households reported that they either had no garden for which they were responsible or they chose not to water it.

SOURCES OF WATER USED BY HOUSEHOLDS, 1994

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.
Sources of water
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Mains/town
94.4
93.4
88.7
95.4
93.6
86.1
95.4
100.0
93.0
Rainwater tank
9.1
12.6
17.7
48.0
11.2
17.9
2.6
0.9
15.2
Spring
0.6
0.5
0.5
2.4
0.6
4.1
0.4
* *
0.8
Bore
2.2
2.0
7.5
4.4
20.9
2.0
7.5
* *
5.1
Bottled
2.5
1.3
2.1
9.3
3.5
0.6
1.8
1.3
2.8
Other
2.8
2.2
3.4
1.3
2.8
4.7
* *
0.3
2.6
Total households(a)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total households
2,157.7
1,606.4
1,142.7
567.3
610.6
179.9
46.2
103.6
6,414.5

(a) Components do not add to total as households may have more than one water source.

Source: Environmental Issues: Peoples Views and Practices (cat. no. 4602.0).

USES OF WATER BY HOUSEHOLDS, 1994

Purpose

Garden
Bathing/washing
Drinking
Predominant source used
%
%
%

Mains/town
72.6
92.2
84.1
Rainwater tank
2.3
5.7
12.6
Spring
0.4
0.3
0.3
Bore
4.4
1.1
0.4
Other
2.2
0.8
0.5
Bottled
. .
. .
2.1
No garden
12.6
. .
. .
Don't use water
5.4
. .
. .
Total households
100.0
100.0
100.0

Source: Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices (cat. no. 4602.0).


Water conservation measures
Water conservation is important because water is a limited resource, and its capture and storage has environmental impacts. Water also requires electrical power to supply it to users, so the less water that is used the less energy is consumed for pumping and treatment.

Various water conservation methods are used by households in their dwellings and gardens. In 1994, 39% of households in Australia had a dual flush toilet and 22% had a reduced flow shower head. 24% of households reported turning off and repairing dripping taps to conserve water, while 16% took shorter showers. 16% used washing machines with full loads and 15% used suds saver. 13% of households recycled or reused water.

Over half of households (54%) reported taking no water conservation steps within their homes. However, the majority (84%) of households with gardens attempted to conserve water.

Of all households with gardens, 68% conserved water by watering during the cooler times of the day. Mulch was used by 53%, while 38% planted native shrubs and trees. Only 16% of households took no measures to conserve water in their gardens.

CONSERVING WATER IN THE DWELLING, 1994

Households
Conservation method
'000
%

Dual flush toilet
2,503.1
39.0
Reduced flow shower head
1,399.5
21.8
Recycle/reuse water
850.8
13.3
Full loads when washing
1,034.3
16.1
Shorter showers
1,006.8
15.7
Turn off/repair dripping taps
1,509.9
23.5
Brick in toilet cistern
112.7
1.8
Suds saver on washing machine used
942.4
14.7
Other
539.3
8.4
No conservation methods
3,482.3
54.3
Total households(a)
6,414.5
100.0

(a) Components do not add to total as households may have more than one water conservation method.

Source: Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices (cat. no. 4602.0).

CONSERVING WATER IN THE GARDEN, 1994

Households
Conservation method
'000
%

Plant natives
2,107.0
37.6
Mulch used on plants
2,964.8
52.9
Water early morning/late evening
3,818.3
68.1
Other
149.0
2.7
No water conservation steps
890.5
15.9
Total households(a)(b)
5,605.1
100.0

(a) Components do not add to total as households may have more than one water conservation method.
(b) Includes only households with gardens.

Source: Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices (cat. no. 4602.0).


Consumption of goods
The consumption of goods in the home has increased over time, both in terms of the number of goods purchased by households and the variety of goods available. For example, household ownership of television sets has increased from 55% in 1961 to 99% in 1991. Also, household ownership of video cassette recorders has increased from 3% in 1981 to 80% in 1993 and household ownership of compact disc players increased from 4% in 1986 to 33% in 1993 (see Australian Social Trends 1995, Leisure at home).

The increasing consumption of many goods is linked to their increasing affordability (see Australian Social Trends 1995, Purchasing power). However, the life span of many products is also decreasing. The designs and manufacturing methods that make goods cheaper also often make them difficult, or not financially viable, to repair3. Many electronic products (e.g. computers) are quickly superseded by continual improvements in design. Other products, such as polystyrene cups, paper tissues, and disposable nappies, are designed to be disposable.

The increasing consumption and disposability of goods causes resource depletion and waste production. However, this is being partially offset with some products that are more biodegradable and recyclable and products that have less packaging.

Recycling
Recycling is an important method of reducing the consumption of natural resources and reducing pressure on land-fills. Most households engage in some form of recycling, and recycling activity has increased over time. In 1996, only 9% of households did not engage in any recycling activity, compared to 15% in 1992.

In 1996, paper was the item most commonly recycled by households (75%), closely followed by glass (73%), plastic and old clothing/rags (67% each) and cans (62%). The high recycling rates for paper, glass, plastic and cans is related to the recycling strategies developed by local councils and other government waste management authorities. The high recycling rate for clothing reflects their redistribution within a household to other family members and the collection of clothing by charities.

Garden waste was recycled by 51% of households, and kitchen or food waste by 45%. The re-use of garden and food waste can provide a useful fertiliser and soil enhancer, as well as helping to reduce landfill volumes and collection costs.

Between 1992 and 1996, household recycling rates increased for all items surveyed. Plastic recycling made the largest gains, increasing by 79%. Recycling of cans increased by 41%, and paper and glass by 36% and 33%, respectively.

Many households are willing to engage in recycling activities if adequate recycling services and facilities are provided by local authorities. The main method used to collect the bulk of recycled material in Australia is collection services from dwellings, with 80% of households using this service for paper and cans, 82% for glass recycling, and 78% for plastic recycling.

Of those households who gave a reason for not recycling all the items surveyed, the main reasons were a lack of recyclable materials (51%), no services or facilities being available (23%) and lack of interest by the household (14%).

ITEMS RECYCLED BY HOUSEHOLDS

May 1992
March 1996
Item recycled
%
%

Paper
54.7
74.5
Glass
55.3
73.4
Plastic
37.3
66.8
Old clothing/rags
63.3
66.6
Cans
44.1
62.1
Garden waste
47.3
50.8
Kitchen/food waste
35.6
44.9
All items recycled
n.a.
6.2
No recycling
15.3
9.4
Total households(a)
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
Total households
6,175.4
6,667.9

(a) Components do not add to total because a household may recycle more than one type of item.

Source: Environmental Issues, Peoples Views and Practices, Australia (cat. no. 4602.0).


Disposal of hazardous waste
In 1996, while 91% of households recycled some form of non-hazardous waste, only 31% knew of services that were available specifically to dispose of hazardous waste. However, about 47% of households disposed of some form of hazardous waste. Examples of hazardous waste are items such as garden chemicals, paint products, batteries, motor oils, and pharmaceuticals. Households in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory recorded the highest level of awareness (with 43% and 42% respectively), while Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales were marginally below the Australian average.

In 1996, the principal method used by households to dispose of hazardous waste was via the usual garbage collection from the dwelling (62%). This was followed by waste materials being taken to a business or shop for disposal (25%). The least reported method of disposal for the items surveyed was to bury them (2%).


Endnotes
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1996, Australians and the Environment, cat. no. 4601.0, ABS, Canberra.

2 Australian Urban and Regional Development Review (AURDR) 1995, Green Cities, Strategy Paper No. 3, AURDR, Canberra.

3 Consumers Union of U.S. ‘1996 Buying Guide’, Consumer Reports, Vol. 60, No. 13, 1995.


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