Research

Pandemic makes UK more environmentally-conscious – but “green” behaviours have dipped

  • Fifty-two per cent of UK adults say they are more environmentally-conscious than pre-pandemic.
  • But fewer people are recycling, avoiding single-use plastic or buying second-hand goods.
  • Over-55s generally take more “green” actions than other age groups, particularly under-25s.

More than half of UK residents say the Covid pandemic has made them more environmentally-conscious, but their actions tell a different story. According to the latest Aviva How We Live study, published today, people are taking considerably fewer ‘green’ steps than they were in December 2019.

Aviva’s latest research finds more than half of UK adults (52%) say they are more environmentally-conscious than pre-pandemic, two fifths of whom say they are ‘a lot’ more so. Only four per cent say they are less environmentally-conscious than before the Covid outbreak.

However, if actions speak louder than words, people may be less “green” than they think. When asked about a range of environmentally-conscious steps, the percentage of UK adults taking these actions is considerably lower than before the pandemic took hold, as the table below shows:

Green behaviour

Percentage of people doing Dec ‘19

Percentage of people doing Feb ‘21

Recycling through local bin collections

73%

51%

Giving unwanted items to charity shops

67%

43%

Avoiding single-use plastic items

61%

36%

Turning down the thermostat at home

59%

27%

Reducing how often you use your car

34%

26%

Eat local/seasonal vegetables/fruit to reduce food miles

37%

25%

Reducing the amount of meat eaten in your household

32%

21%

Buying second-hand items / up-cycling

40%

20%

Reducing how often you travel by plane

22%

17%

Becoming vegan

5%

4%

It is possible that some people’s green intentions have been hampered by lockdown restrictions, closures of shops and facilities, and the availability of some goods and services. This in turn may have made people more conscious of their environmental responsibilities, if they were unable to fulfil them.

However, the trend seems to have taken place across all categories, including some which were arguably less affected by the pandemic, such as eating seasonal produce and reducing meat consumption.

This may point towards a wider change in attitudes during the pandemic, potentially suggesting some people altered their behaviours as they adopted “survival” mode and refocused their priorities.

Older people lead the way in green living

The latest How We Live study also reiterates a trend which was first seen in 2019 Aviva data – that overall, older people are more likely to undertake environmentally-friendly actions than their younger counterparts.

The study finds people aged 65+ are most likely to recycle their waste through local bin collections, buy seasonal fruit and vegetables, and - along with those aged 55-64 – avoid single-use plastic.

As a rule of thumb, the likelihood of adopting certain behaviours appears to increase with age. In all but two categories considered, under-25s are least likely to be undertaking these actions.

Notable exceptions relate to people adopting a vegan diet. Over-65s are least likely to be vegan, at just 1% of this age group, while 9% of under-25s say they eat a purely plant-based diet.

 

All ages

16-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

55-64

65+

Recycling through local bin collections

51%

26%

36%

41%

52%

67%

73%

Giving unwanted items to charity shops

43%

25%

31%

33%

44%

55%

61%

Avoiding single-use plastic items

36%

22%

29%

29%

36%

47%

47%

Turning down the thermostat at home

27%

16%

19%

22%

30%

37%

32%

Reducing how often you use your car

26%

14%

21%

23%

25%

32%

38%

Eat local/seasonal vegetables/fruit to reduce food miles

25%

18%

20%

21%

24%

31%

34%

Reducing the amount of meat eaten in your household

21%

16%

20%

18%

23%

24%

20%

Buying second-hand items / up-cycling

20%

20%

21%

19%

23%

22%

15%

Reducing how often you travel by plane

17%

14%

13%

10%

16%

20%

25%

Becoming vegan

4%

9%

7%

5%

3%

2%

1%

"This latest How We Live study suggests green ambitions are still strong within the UK, but they appear to have taken a knock."

Gareth Hemming, MD, Personal Lines, Aviva says: “This latest How We Live study suggests green ambitions are still strong within the UK, but they appear to have taken a knock. More than half of UK adults say they are even more environmentally-conscious as a result of Covid-19 conditions, but the steps taken to support green living have fallen considerably since pre-pandemic days.

“This may be a result of practical limitations as the closure of shops and services may have hampered their environmental efforts, and we can hope that once people exit ‘survival mode’, their green behaviours will be boosted again.”

-ENDS-

In March 2021 Aviva announced its plan to become a Net Zero carbon emissions company by 2040.

Data relates to a survey of 4,000 randomly selected UK adults aged 16 and upwards, carried out by Censuswide Research on behalf of Aviva between 10 – 15 February 2021. Where a comparative study from December 2019 is referenced, this relates to a similar survey of 4,003 UK adults, carried out by Censuswide Research between 4-13 December 2019. 

Media Enquiries

Sarah Poulter

Group External Communications

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