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Britons: The Biggest Energy Wasters In Europe

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 27 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Energy Electricity Climate Change Energy

Britons are guilty of the worst energy wasting habits in Europe, according to a recent survey of the continent’s most populous nations.

Climate Change and Consumer Efficiency

Leaving electrical appliances on standby, phone chargers plugged in, forgetting to switch off the lights and using the car for the most local of journeys are some of the common energy wasting crimes admitted to by UK residents.

The research, commissioned by the Energy Saving Trust, predicts that if such wasteful habits continue then an extra 43 million tonnes of carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere by 2010.

‘Habits of a Lifetime’ Environment Survey

5,000 people from Europe’s five most populous nations of France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK were interviewed as part of the ‘Habits of a Lifetime’ report. As a way to mark the beginning of the annual Energy Saving Week, the survey highlighted the main theme of how individuals can make a big difference to the environment and their own purse strings by breaking such seemingly harmless but damaging habits as:

  • Leaving electrical appliances on standby.
  • Boiling more water in the kettle than needed.
  • Forgetting to switch off lights when leaving rooms.
  • Using the car for short journeys.
  • Washing clothes at 60 degrees.
  • Leaving the car engine running when stationary.
  • Using the tumble dryer rather than the washing line.

Electricity Wasting Habits

71% of British consumers were found to leave standby buttons on once a week. The action of leaving TV sets and other appliances in ‘sleep’ mode may save the inconvenience of getting up and pulling out the plug but it wastes electricity and around 800,000 tonnes of carbon a year, the approximate equivalent of two power stations’ worth of energy.

Another careless habit that costs the environment dear is forgetting to switch off lights when leaving the room, an action that 63% of UK residents admitted to carrying out habitually. Almost half of Brits were found to jump in the car for short journeys rather than walk, cycle or use public transport and a third confessed to opting to use the tumble-dryer rather than the traditional washing line.

Falling Behind the Pack

Whilst the popularity of these bad habits with UK consumers helped put the nation firmly at the bottom of the energy efficiency league, at the opposite end Germany came out worthy winners. The Teutons lived up to their efficient stereotype with four times fewer Germans than Brits leaving on lights on and half as many leaving appliances on standby.

However, rather than a showcase of the green superiority of the Germans, the survey results highlighted how far the Brits are behind all their European neighbours in terms of energy efficiency. UK citizens admitted to an average of 32 energy-wasting habits per week, twice as many as runners-up Spain and 40% more than third placed France.

Bucking the Trend

There are some positive signs that the UK is acknowledging its poor environmental performance by taking appropriate steps to tackle climate change. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said that Great Britain currently boasts one of the Europe’s best records of fighting carbon emissions, and claims it is on course to reduce CO2 by 16% by 2010.

Nevertheless, with British cities using up resources at a rate of 3.51 times what the world can sustain, more effort needs to be made to meet the 20% reduction on the domestic level.

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