In the not-too-distant past, I worked as research assistant and was responsible for investigating how to encourage people to adopt more sustainable behaviour. I was specifically looking at household retrofitting—solar panels, underfloor insulation, high-quality glazing, etc. A more energy efficient house means less energy wasted and a smaller carbon footprint, and it typically has the positive knock-on effect of a more comfortable home and lower energy bills. It’s a win-win for the planet and the householder!
Yet an overwhelming majority of people do not retrofit, even those who consider themselves environmentally conscious and who are interested in taking these steps. Armed with the existing academic literature, I interviewed people who fell into this category of “pro-environmental attitude/no action” to find out why they didn’t act. The answer might surprise you.
Although large retrofitting measures are costly, it wasn’t the price that put most people off—it was the disruption. And this has been borne out by those who do act: retrofitting is more likely to occur when people are already in the process of renovating their homes. It underscored what had already been hinted at in previous research: convenience typically trumps cost when it comes to behaviour change.
This is all very interesting, I can hear you say. But what does it have to do with litter and waste?
First, is it any wonder that people litter when it is the easier option? Until not littering is made easier than littering—whether that means social or legal consequences—it will likely remain a problem in communities across the UK.
Second, billions of plastic water bottles are purchased every year, despite cheap, clean, and plentiful water being literally available on tap throughout the country. Most people find it more convenient to grab a bottle at a store than to remember to carry a reusable bottle and refill it for free.
Today is National Refill Day, and I would like to ask everyone to take that extra few seconds to refill rather than purchase bottled water. In Chippenham, we have a number of retailers participating in the Refill programme year-round:
- The Garden
- Rivo Lounge
- Coffee #1
- Sarah Jayne’s Cafe
- Kington St. Michael Village Shop
- Santosha Studio
- Costa Coffee
- Pizza Hut
- Premier Inn
- The Bridge House
- Boswells Cafe
- Jolly’s Irish Cafe
There’s also the national Refill app so that you can find free water on the go wherever you happen to be. If you only do one thing this year to help cut back on plastic waste, please consider converting to a reusable bottle. Want to do even more? Buy reusable bottles for your friends and family—they make great gifts!
Keen to take further steps to reduce your wasteline? Check out past posts for ideas about how you can quickly and conveniently make the transition away from plastic: