December 4-11, 2006

Canadians' environmental practices reflect changing priorities, emerging concerns, survey finds

Statistics Canada has released initial results from its 2006 Households and the Environment Survey (HES). The first such survey since 1994, it covered 30,000 households, measuring the environmental practices and behaviours of Canadians.

Among other things, the HES found that households that used a municipal water supply as their source of drinking water were slightly more likely to treat their water, by filtering, for example, than households that drew water from a well or a surface source. Almost three in ten Canadian households (29%) applied pesticides to their lawn or garden. This figure was down only slightly from the 31% that reported doing so in 1994. Of these pesticide users, just over half (52%) said the products were applied as part of a regular maintenance schedule. The rest said they applied the pesticides only when particular problems arose.

The objective of the survey is to provide context to the science (i.e. the actual measures of air and water quality and greenhouse gas emissions) by gaining a better understanding of household behaviour and practices with respect to the environment. StatsCan reports that since the last HES was carried out, environmental priorities and concerns have changed for Canadians.

Since 1994, drinking water quality, the environmental impacts of residential pesticide use and the impacts of hazardous waste on human health are only some of the newer issues that have moved to the forefront of Canadians' collective consciousness, with their environmental practices and behaviours changing to reflect these growing concerns. In order to gauge these changes, the 2006 HES measured some of the same environmental variables that were measured in previous surveys, and added some new ones.

The components covered in the 2006 HES include: a) consumption and conservation of water; b) energy use and home heating; c) gasoline-powered equipment use; d) pesticide and fertilizer use; e) recycling, composting and waste disposal practices; f) air and water quality; and g) transportation decisions.

The HES preliminary findings were released as background to the second Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators report (see previous story). A full data set and analysis from the survey will be available in the spring of 2007. The initial results may be viewed on the StatsCan Web site, www.statscan.ca.

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