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Canadians agree on range of environmental issues, U of T study finds

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Canadians environmental views
The University of Toronto study found that a higher median age is slightly more likely to equate with making environmentally-friendly product purchases, and greener waste management practices. Photo credit: kanachaifoto, stock.adobe.com

An analysis of Statistics Canada data by researchers in the University of Toronto Scarborough’s Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences has found that most Canadians aren’t too far apart when it comes to views on the environment, except when it comes to climate change.

For the study, researchers examined a set of 59 questions from StatCan’s Household and the Environment Survey. The subjects covered issues such as air quality, energy use, waste disposal, and household water.

“A real positive finding is that Canadians, regardless of their age, income, location, politics or income, are not deeply divided on many very important environmental issues,” said Professor George Arhonditsis, study co-author, in a statement.

The study showed that the majority of Canadians revealed a “tendency for environmentally aligned practices concerning their recycling and hazardous waste disposal practices”, with a trend in British Columbia and the Prairies to recycle primarily for reducing waste in landfill sites or the demand for raw materials, and social responsibility.

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In terms of anomalies, the study found that a higher median age is slightly more likely to equate with making environmentally-friendly product purchases, and greener waste management practices.

The study also revealed that communities with an older median age are more likely to use fewer chemical fertilizers and pesticides, purchase more locally grown food, and own water meters and water-saving showerheads.

A notable difference with younger people who took the survey was that they are more likely to be involved in environmental activism. This includes dedicating time and resources to volunteer activities aimed at conservation, clean-up projects and protection or restoration of wildlife and habitats.

One interesting observation from the study may be the impact of politics in relation to the environment, researchers found. For instance, the study noted that Conservative-leaning respondents often tend to be more reluctant to take actions aimed at climate change, such as purchasing electric vehicles or adopting renewable forms of energy.

“We found that political conservatism influenced some climate change-related behaviours, but overall, we don’t find a significant ‘conservative-versus-liberal’ divide about the broader-spectrum of environmental issues,” said Arhonditsis. “It’s not like conservatives recycle a lot less, are more wasteful with water or don’t care about green spaces compared to liberals,” he added.

The study found few differences when it came to comparing urban to rural behaviours around the environment.

George Arhonditsis co-authored the study with PhD student Cindy Yang. This article appears in ES&E Magazine’s August 2022 issue:

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