Cost of living challenges and the energy crisis are impacting consumers' appetite for taking greater sustainable action in their personal lives, yet people remain positive toward more sustainable living, particularly in relation to windfarms, electric vehicles, recycling, reducing food waste and plastic use, according to the AIB Sustainability Survey, carried out by Amárach.
More than half (56%) of those surveyed mentioned cost as the first barrier preventing people from making more sustainable changes in their personal lives. Only four in ten consumers feel sustainability is really important to them in their daily lives, the lowest level recorded since 2019, when it was six in 10. Only three in 10 say they take meaningful actions to live sustainably, with those over 55 most likely to do so. More than 40% of those over 55 state they take meaningful action to live sustainably compared with 20% in the 18-34 age group and 30% in the 35 to 54 group.
Using renewable electricity sources and reducing flights are the most popular high impact actions taken to reduce CO2 emissions, with 39% saying they are already using electricity produced from renewable energy and 33% saying they are already taking one flight less a year.
Among the high impact sustainability changes, giving up meat or cars are the least considered actions with 60% saying they would not consider switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet, and 60% saying they would not consider living without a car.
However, just over half of those surveyed supported EU plans to stop the production of petrol and diesel cars by 2035. Separately, 46% agreed that they would be driving less by 2030, while 41% agreed they would be switching to electric vehicles by 2030. The research found that almost nine in ten have at least one car in their household. Among those who do, one fifth already have an electric or hybrid vehicle.
Seventy per cent are recycling or composting everything they can, 62% are using more energy efficient appliances, while 61% believe their homes would need a deep retrofit to significantly improve its energy efficiency, according to the research.
AIB chief sustainability and corporate affairs officer Mary Whitelaw said, "It is heartening to see that this new research shows that consumers still have a positive view of sustainability despite cost of living challenges, particularly the cost of energy. It is also positive to see that 15% of consumers are planning to take out a loan related to a green product over the next 12 months. At AIB we support our personal customers by offering lower-cost green mortgages for customers buying energy efficient homes with a building energy rating of B3 or higher. This helps them save on their energy bills and reduce their loan repayments, while also saving the planet. We also offer discounted green personal loans to fund green actions like the installation of solar panels, the provision of insulation, or the purchase of an electric vehicle."
Amárach chairman Gerard O'Neill said, "Consumers recognise the importance of environmentally conscious purchasing decisions and are knowledgeable about sustainability related terms. Many recognise that they have done the 'easy stuff' such as recycling and using energy efficient bulbs, but now have to consider the 'harder stuff' such as insulation, greener transport and solar panels. It is worth noting this research shows there is widespread belief among consumers about the need to retrofit to improve the energy efficiency of their home, but most are unaware of schemes available and only a minority of those have checked if they qualify."
The survey also found the view on who has most responsibility for reducing the impact of climate change is evolving, with 72% saying government has most responsibility for driving behaviour to tackle the environmental crisis, up nine points on 2021, while 57% say the most responsibility lies with individuals, down from 61%. The survey also found that 49% say big business has a responsibility to tackle environmental issues, unchanged on 2021.
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