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Environmental Economics Research Paper No.3
Prepared by Deni Greene Consulting Services,
Australian Consumers Association and National Key Centre for Design, RMIT for the
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories
© Commonwealth of Australia, 1996
ISBN 0 642 24869 9
The Consultant's Brief for this project set out three major tasks:
1. Prepare an overview of the range of measures available for influencing consumption patterns to achieve more sustainable use of goods and services. These measures should include, but not be limited to:
Further project definition added the following measures to this list:
– land use regulations,
– product bans,
– building codes and standards, and
– other regulatory measures not covered by other categories
2. Report in detail on the initiatives taken within Australia, which aim to reduce the environmental impact associated with economic activity by directly targeting end- user consumption activity. The study should focus on the following two categories of measures:
Further project scoping confined initiatives to those aimed at domestic consumers. The study therefore does not cover initiatives directed at business and industry (such as cleaner production), except where those affect the domestic end consumer.
3. Provide initial analysis on the initiatives and policies reported in 2, which would include investigation of:
Project Definition. As the area of consumption is very broad and often vaguely defined, the first project task was the identification of the areas of domestic consumption to be examined. A decision was taken at this stage to use an expansive definition of domestic consumption, to include as many areas of consumption activity for which it might be possible to identify initiatives. These areas of activity will be discussed further in the next chapter.
Literature Search. Having identified a range of consumption activities, Study Team members undertook an extensive literature search to identify “Australian initiatives to change consumption patterns with the aim of reducing environmental impacts.” This search involved an examination of data bases, environmental journals, and publication lists of government agencies, statutory authorities, and other organisations. A more targeted search of the environmental literature was undertaken to review information on the measures available for influencing consumption patterns.
It was not possible, within the confines of this study, to undertake surveys of products appearing in supermarkets or other consumer retail outlets. Neither was it feasible to canvass advertisements appearing on television or in the general media to identify products aimed at reducing environmental impact. Some products of this type could be identified by the means used.
Consultation. The study involved two main types of consultation. The first stage of the study involved discussions aimed at identifying initiatives. In this stage, we contacted individuals active in environmental organisations, particularly those concerned with consumers, and individuals knowledgeable about particular areas of activity, such as energy efficiency, recycling, recreation, chemicals, and transport. In the second stage of the study, having identified a range of initiatives for analysis, we held discussions with individuals responsible for or knowledgeable about the specific initiatives.
Analysis. Several types of analysis were undertaken as part of this study. First, as part of the broad survey of initiatives taken to change consumption patterns, each initiative identified was categorised by the area of consumption to be influenced and the type of measure used to influence consumption. A determination was also made about the primary aim of the initiative: whether it was the reduction of environmental impact or a different benefit, such as improved health or lower cost. (In some cases, of course, initiatives were intended to provide more than one type of benefit.)
Second, the initiatives were reviewed to select a group of initiatives for more detailed examination. This process involved an initial analysis of the extent to which it would be possible to segregate the impact of the initiative from other activities occurring concurrently or to assess the initiative's impact in any meaningful way.
Third, each initiative in the selected group was analysed to identify:
Finally, analysis was undertaken to identify promising areas for action and to draw conclusions about action to promote sustainable consumption.