Brits Most Guilty of Energy Wasting Habits

LONDON, UK, October 23, 2006 (ENS) - Brits are the most wasteful people in Europe, according to a survey of the energy habits of 5,000 Europeans. A report today by the UK's Energy Saving Trust found Germans are the most efficient in their energy use, followed by the Spanish, but Brits top the European Energy Wasters' league.

"The Energy Saving Trust predicts that by 2010, unless we curb our energy wasting habits we could have wasted 11 billion (US$20.6 billion) and around 43 million tonnes of carbon dioxide," said Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, an independent consumer advisory body on energy efficiency. "This is equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of seven million homes."

Carbon dioxide is the most abundant greenhouse gas. Linked to climate change, it is emitted by burning coal, oil and gas to generate electricity and power motor vehicles.

UK carbon dioxide emissions rose in the first half of 2006, and are now at their highest level since Labour came to power in 1997, Friends of the Earth UK said today after analyzing the latest government energy figures in a separate report. The figures show that use of oil and coal increased, while gas use decreased - but the overall picture was that total energy consumption rose.

The Energy Saving Trust's "Habits of a Lifetime: European Energy Usage Report" looked at 12 of the most common energy wasting habits among consumers.


Brits boil more water than needed in the kettle, wasting gas or electricity to do so. (Photo credit unknown)
The report discovered a litany of wasteful habits among British people yet a high degree of guilt about the problem. While 86 percent of British people surveyed said they feel guilty about wasting energy, 76 percent admitted habitually leaving appliances on standby; 67 percent boil more water than needed in the kettle; 65 percent leave electrical appliances plugged in; and 63 percent leave lights on in unoccupied rooms.

While topping the European chart in overall energy waste, Brits are by no means alone in wasting energy.

Italians are most wasteful with fuel, according to the report, as they forget to turn their car engines off when in heavy traffic 2.5 times a week, compared to less than once a week in Germany.

Italians are the worst offenders when it comes to the standby button, with 80 percent of them regularly leaving six appliances on standby.

By contrast, the French jump in their car just twice a week when they could easily use a different form of transport, compared to three times a week in Britain and Italy. The French are most likely to don a sweater rather than turning up the thermostat, with just 16 percent of people reaching for the thermostat at least once a week.

The Spanish are the most conscientious when it comes to heating and cooling with only 12 percent leaving their heating or air conditioning on when they go out, compared to 28 percent in Britain.


Leaving engines running during traffic jams wastes fuel. (Photo courtesy FreeFoto)
Germans are the most fuel conscious when sitting in traffic jams, with 78 percent always turning their engines off when stationary. Germans are most likely to wash their clothes at 60 degrees, with 60 percent of them doing so on a regular basis, compared to just 20 percent of people in Spain.

The report found that laziness topped the list for Brits as an explanation for their inefficient energy habits, with 42 percent citing it as one of the main reasons for their careless attitude towards energy. However, one in five Brits pleaded ignorance when it came to how much personal behavior costs the country.

"Habits are an example of learned behavior so by their very nature, they can be unlearned again," said behavioral psychologist Dr. Donna Dawson. "With more than double the number of people citing laziness rather than lack of awareness as the main reason for their bad energy habits the findings should be seen as fairly positive.

Sellwood is urging British people to assuage their guilt by actually doing something about wasting energy.

"Without reading this report, there is one simple thing you can do to help change your energy habits," said Sellwood. "Join our campaign and commit to saving 20 percent of the energy you use every day."

The campaign outlines a five day plan:

For more information on Energy Saving Trust's five day plan, visit

To read Habits of a Lifetime: European Energy Usage Report, visit