Survey of Environmental Awareness and Practices, 2008

In this publication, the National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (NIHERST) presents the results of the Survey of Environmental Awareness and Practices, 2013. This survey is the second of its kind to be conducted by NIHERST as a similar study was undertaken in 2008.

The results of this study are intended to provide a better understanding of the population's knowledge, behaviour and practices with respect to the environment. The enquiry focused on concerns about the eco-system and biodiversity, consumption and conservation of water, waste disposal practices, transportation decisions and pesticide use; and has generated essential indicators for comparison with similar studies. In addition, information was obtained on several key social characteristics of respondents.

People’s lives and livelihoods are threatened by environmental concerns such as climate change, rising sea levels, unsafe practices in waste disposal and natural resource depletion, and failure to address these concerns could hinder sustainable development. This study measured and analysed changes in public knowledge, awareness and practices regarding the environment over time. The information can, therefore, assist researchers, decision-makers and environmentalists in formulating and evaluating policies.

Summary of Main Findings

  • Of the total respondents, 47% were males and 53% were females.
  • Most respondents (43%) reported their highest level of educational attainment as primary, followed by secondary (36%).
  • The majority of respondents (61%) was employed while 8% were unemployed.
  • A half (50%) of the survey respondents indicated that they were very interested in the environment and one-third (36%) was interested. The survey results also show that the proportion of respondents interested in the environment increased in relationship to educational attainment.
  • Results from the household survey of environmental awareness and practices 2013, compared to a previous undertaking in 2008, revealed a similar level of considerable interest in the environment.
  • Respondents expressed considerable personal responsibility, a lot (47%) and quite a lot (36%), towards the environment.
  • Most respondents (53%) stated that personal interest was the main reason for seeking information about environmental issues, followed by keeping abreast of important developments (42%).
  • Most respondents rated the condition of the natural environment as poor (44%). A similar pattern of response was recorded within the various age groups and educational attainment. Compared with the results of a similar survey undertaken in 2008, the condition of the natural environment rated as good increased slightly to 17% in 2013 from 14% in 2008; but overall, the condition of the environment remained unchanged as poor.
  • The majority (63%) of respondents indicated that the natural environment in 2013 compared to ten years ago had deteriorated; only 18% observed improvement. A similar order of responses was observed in the previous study undertaken in 2008 compared to 2013.
  • In 2013, pollution (43%) was identified as the most important environmental concern, followed by waste disposal (31%) as recorded five years ago in 2008.
  • Over three-fifths of the respondents were very concerned with traffic congestion (66%), pollution in rivers (65%), air pollution (64%) and levels of waste (62%). Twenty-three percent (23%) of the respondents were 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 households frequently conserved water (79%) and switched off equipment and lights (74%). Approximately a third bought low energy lighting and equipment (34%) and recycled or reused materials (30%) frequently.
  • Survey participants identified the television (63%) as the leading source of information on environmental issues, followed by newspapers (17%) and Internet (11%). By educational attainment a substantial percentage of the respondents with a bachelor's degree and above (37%) and an associate degree (29%) identified the internet as a source of information in 2013 compared to 23% and 24% respectively in 2008.
  • A significant percentage (83%) of the respondents was aware of the existence of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and the majority (66%) in all age groups and levels of educational attainment was of the opinion that the EMA played an important role in protecting the environment.
  • Two-thirds (65%) of the survey participants indicated that they had no knowledge of any environmental awareness and protection programmes.
  • The majority (72%) of respondents overall, felt that there was insufficient state investment in environmental preservation and protection programmes.
  • Most respondents (90%) felt that pollution in the nearby rivers was getting worse. Two-thirds or more of the respondents knew that carbon dioxide and other gases released into the atmosphere could lead to global warming (71%), slash and burn was not an eco-friendly method of cultivation (66%) and CFC found in cleaning products was harmful to the environment (65%). Over a half of the respondents provided correct responses for the statements: the ozone layer absorbed ultraviolet radiation (56%) and styrofoam not was biodegradable (53%). Approximately a quarter (23%) of the respondents disagreed that all radioactivity was produced by man. The results of this study in 2013 were comparable to 2008.
  • Accumulatively, a half or more of the survey participants in 2013 was very familiar and familiar with the terms global warming (60%), ozone layer (60%) and eco-friendly (50%). Overall, the pattern of responses observed in 2013 was similar to that of 2008. A substantial percentage of respondents in 2013 was not familiar with the term biodiversity (48%) and greenhouse effect (31%).
  • Almost all (96%) of the survey participants indicated that they travelled by car, van or maxi-taxi as their main mode of transportation. A negligible 2% travelled by public transport bus mainly due to convenience and cost.
  • Three-fifths (59%) of the households owned a motor vehicle and that motor vehicle ownership increased in relationship to household size.
  • A large proportion (60%) of the survey participants stated that cost was the most important factor considered when purchasing a motor vehicle, followed by fuel economy (22%). Four-fifths (82%) of the respondents used gasoline to power their motor vehicles and over a half (57%) serviced their motor vehicles once every three months.
  • Three-quarters (76%) of the survey respondents did not carpool which 86% considered helpful to the environment.
  • Overall, a significant majority (98%) of the households did not have access to a recycling programme. Of the 2% that did participate in a recycling programme, 62% and 53% identified home and work respectively as the main places of recycling activity, consisting mainly of bottles, old clothing and paper.
  • The survey results show that three-quarters (74%) of the households disposed of hazardous waste through the usual garbage collection service from their houses. By geographical area, the data reveal that one-fifth (21%) of the households in Nariva/Mayaro used a special service and a similar proportion (20%) in Diego Martin accessed dumps.
  • Thirty-one percent (31%) of the households emptied their septic tanks once every two to three years and 26% once every four or more years.
  • Less than a half (46%) of the total sample of households that participated in the survey had a lawn or garden.
  • Approximately one-half (48%) of the survey participants, especially in Nariva/Mayaro (90%) and St. Patrick (64%), watered their lawns or gardens less than once a week, and a quarter (25%), mainly in Port of Spain (42%) and Rest of St. George (40%), did so three times or more a week.
  • The majority (73%) of responding households did not apply any weed killers, pesticides, or fungicides to their lawns or gardens.
  • Over a half (59%) of the households surveyed did not treat their drinking water. Of the households that treated their drinking water, the majority (71%) did so to remove possible bacteria.