Britons worst for energy waste

Britons are the worst offenders when it comes to energy waste and will pour £11bn in electricity and fuel down the drain by 2010 if attitudes remain unchanged, a survey of European energy consumers has found.

The Energy Saving Trust survey asked 5,000 Europeans in five countries about their energy use and found Britons most likely to waste energy by the ways they use their home appliances, heating and cars.

Energy-conscious Germans came out as the least energy-wasteful thanks to habits such as always turning off car engines in traffic jams and washing clothes at 60 degrees.

The Spanish, particularly praised for their good heating habits, were close behind Germany, followed by the French, and then the Italians who lost points for leaving their car engines on in heavy traffic.

UK consumers admitted to committing the energy ‘sins’ examined in the survey most frequently of all Europeans.

About two-thirds of all Britons waste electricity by leaving TVs on standby, mobile chargers plugged in and boiling too much water in the kettle, the Habits of a Lifetime report found.

Half of us use the car for short distances that could easily be walked, over a quarter (28%) leave the heating on in empty houses, and around one in five will turn the thermostat up instead of putting on a jumper.

The survey also asked energy consumers which bad habits they saw as the most important to change. Leaving appliances on stand-by and using the car for short journeys came out as the top two priorities for Britons, followed by boiling too much water and lighting empty rooms.

An EST spokesperson told edie: “The two habits which we as consumers believe are most important to break are turning appliances off standby and using the car for short journeys.

“Interestingly both of these were among our top four inefficient energy habits as the survey revealed, so it is encouraging that consumers want to take action to tackle these and other habits.

“Simply turning your appliances off standby can save you up to £37 a year as well as saving energy.”

Putting all the wasted kilowatt hours and petrol in monetary terms, British consumers pour £2bn down the drain every year.

Unless Britons learn to kick their energy-inefficient habits, the cost of wasted energy will add up to £11bn by 2010, the report warns. Translating this into carbon emissions gives 43m tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2010 that could be avoided while saving money, EST points out.

“This is equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of 7 million homes,” said EST chief executive Philip Sellwood.

The report, launched to coincide with Energy Saving Week, also found laziness to be Britons’ top reason for wasting energy, and that one in five people are unaware of the financial implications of the energy they waste.

The survey also suggested that women cared more about the social and environmental impacts of their energy use – 20% of the men surveyed said they felt no guilt whatsoever about their energy-wasteful habits, compared to just 9% of women. The 18-24 year old age group felt more guilt about wasting energy than other age brackets.

“It is clear from the study we can’t band everyone as ‘a consumer’, differences in age and gender need to be taken into account in terms of how we reach individuals to change the way in which we use energy,” said Philip Sellwood, the Energy Saving Trust’s chief executive.

He appealed to Britons to cut their daily energy use by 20%, saying: “Without reading this report, there is one simple thing you can do to help change your energy habits – join our campaign and commit to saving 20% of the energy you use everyday by logging onto

The full report can be accessed here.

Goska Romanowicz

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