The purpose of this study is to provide an understanding of the population's knowledge, behaviour and practices with respect to the environment. The enquiry focuses on concerns about the eco-system and biodiversity, the consumption and conservation of water, waste disposal practices, transportation decisions, and pesticide and fertilizer use. In addition, information is provided on the key social characteristics of respondents, their level of interest and sources of information about the environment. The study provides a benchmark against which changes in public knowledge, attitudes and behaviour towards the environment can be monitored over time. The results can also inform the development of conservation and communication policies on the environment.
Of the total respondents, 47% were males and 53% were females.
The majority of respondents reported their highest level of educational attainment as secondary (49%), followed by primary education (33%).
A half (54%) of the survey respondents indicated that they were very interested in the environment and one-third (35%) was interested. The highest percentage of respondents (21%) that reported little interest was recorded in the 18-19 age group. The proportion of respondents interested in the environment increased in relationship to educational attainment. Approximately 70% and over of the respondents with tertiary education were very interested in the environment.
Considerable personal responsibility, a lot (49%) and quite a lot (34%), was expressed towards the environment. The highest percentage with little responsibility towards the environment was amongst those respondents less than 30 years of age. The results show a positive relationship between educational attainment and responsibility towards the environment; 79% of the respondents with primary education compared to 96% with a bachelor's degree and above reported an extremely high level of responsibility towards the environment.
Personal interest (53%) was stated as the main reason for seeking information about environmental issues, followed by keeping abreast of important developments (41%). The largest percentage (12%) that enquired about environmental issues with respect to their job or profession was observed amongst those with a bachelor's degree and above.
Most respondents (45%) rated the condition of the natural environment as poor and two-thirds (65%) indicated that the condition of the natural environment had deteriorated compared to ten years ago. Only 20% of the sample felt that the environmental condition had improved over the last ten years.
A large proportion (47%) identified pollution as the most important environmental concern, followed by waste disposal (33%).
Respondents were very concerned with traffic congestion (76%), pollution in rivers (72%), air pollution (69%) and levels of waste (67%). One-quarter (25%) of the respondents was a little concerned with oil depletion and one-fifth (20%) gave a similar rating to loss of wildlife and rising sea levels.
A significant percentage of the household respondents frequently conserved water (84%) and switched off equipment and lights (78%). One-third (36%) of the households recycled or reused materials and one-quarter (25%) bought low energy lighting and equipment frequently.
Television (59%) and newspapers (22%) were identified as the major sources of information on environmental issues.
Respondents of all age groups indicated that environmental science should be taught in schools.
A significant percentage (83%) of the respondents was aware of the existence of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and two-thirds (66%) were of the opinion that the EMA played an important role in protecting the environment.
Three-quarters (75%) of the respondents felt that there was insufficient investment, regulation and involvement in environmental protection by the state.
Most respondents felt that pollution in the nearby rivers was getting worse (92%); slash and burn was not an eco-friendly method of cultivation (67%); chloro fluoro carbon (CFC) which was found in cleaning products was harmful to the environment (62%) and carbon dioxide and other gases released into the atmosphere could lead to global warming (70%).
Accumulatively, over a half of the respondents were familiar with the terms ozone layer (60%) and global warming (58%). The majority of the respondents was not familiar with biodiversity (54%) and similarly, a relatively large percentage with greenhouse effect (36%) and eco-friendly (28%).
Almost all (96%) of the survey participants indicated that they travelled by car, van or maxi as their main mode of transportation. A negligible 2% travelled by public transport, mainly due to cost and convenience.
Over a half (56%) of the households owned a motor vehicle and motor vehicle ownership increased in relationship to household size.
Cost (73%) was the most important factor considered when purchasing a motor vehicle, followed by fuel economy (45%).
Four-fifths (82%) of the respondents used gasoline to power their motor vehicles and over a half (58%) serviced their motor vehicles once every three months.
Seventy-seven percent (77%) of the respondents did not carpool and 85% were of the opinion that carpooling helped the environment.
A significant proportion (92%) of the households disposed of garbage through usual collection from their homes. Approximately one-quarter of the households in the administrative areas of Port of Spain (23%) and Diego Martin (22%) also utilised central collection points or dumps.
A significant proportion (86%) of the households recycled waste materials consisting mainly of plastic bags, bottles, paper and old clothing in their homes.
Seventy-one percent (71%) of the households disposed of hazardous waste through the usual garbage collection from their houses.
Twenty-nine percent (29%) of the households emptied their septic tanks every four years and 20% every two to three years.
Less than a half (46%) of the households that participated in the survey had a lawn or garden. Approximately one-half (48%) watered their lawns or gardens less than once a week and a quarter (25%) did so three or more times a week.
A substantial percentage (70%) of the responding households did not apply any weed killers, pesticides, or fungicides to their lawns or gardens. The highest percentage of respondents who used such chemicals was observed in St. Andrew/St. David (46%), Tobago (43%) and Caroni (41%).
Over a half (56%) of the households surveyed did not treat their drinking water. Of the households that treated their drinking water, the majority (69%) did so to remove possible bacteria.
Written: May 2008