What’s Consuming Ireland? Exploring expressed attitudes and reported behaviours towards the environment and consumption across three study sites on the island of Ireland
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Lavelle, M-J. and Fahy, F. (2016) ‘What’s Consuming Ireland? Exploring expressed attitudes and reported behaviours towards the environment and consumption across three study sites on the island of Ireland’. Irish Geography, 49(2), 29-54, DOI: 10.2014/igj.v49i2.1233
Household consumption levels are escalating across the island of Ireland. Although emissions from transport and construction sectors have experienced a temporary decrease due to the economic downturn, overall emissions are increasing. Despite this, there is a lack of baseline data on three key consumption areas that impact significantly on the environment: water, transport and energy. To address this gap in knowledge, the CONSENSUS Lifestyle Survey (CLS) was developed and implemented to explore expressed attitudes and reported behaviours towards the environment and consumption across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Opening with a critical review of previous perspectives adopted within attitude and behavioural research, this paper outlines the development of the CLS. Drawing on a survey of 1,500 respondents across three case study locations between 2010 and 2011, this paper adopts a framework of environmental behaviour to discuss the findings under the themes of ‘environmental concern variables’, ‘situational variables’ and ‘psychological variables’. Despite the expression of high levels of environmental concern and positive attitudes towards environmental protection and conservation, results reveal the persistence of valueaction gaps. Results indicate the importance of structural variables for shaping consumption behaviours, such as availability of services and the built environment in particular sectors. Socio-demographic factors were found to be important influences on the adoption of water-saving actions. Inflexible social norms about communal sharing and ownership of goods were also highlighted. The research reported in this paper provides a comprehensive response to international calls for baseline data on consumption behaviour.