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Greener and cleaner: How the pandemic has made us all live more sustainably

Having sustainability front of mind may be part of the new normal many Australians are living following the onset of the pandemic, research shows.

Aug 18, 2022, updated Aug 18, 2022
Research has discovered that the pandemic convinced more Australians that they should live sustainably. (AAP Image/James Ross) NO ARCHIVING

Research has discovered that the pandemic convinced more Australians that they should live sustainably. (AAP Image/James Ross) NO ARCHIVING

The lockdowns that confined millions of people to their homes and close communities caused many to make more considered day-to-day choices, the University of Queensland research suggests.

“We found people were making healthier food choices, practising better waste management and adopting other behaviours you’d expect from lockdowns such as less travelling and more cycling, walking and running,” Dr Franzisca Weder from UQ’s School of Communication and Arts said.

The suggestion Covid-19 had been a primary motivator for behaviour change rather than climate reports pleading for urgent action was a surprise, Weder said.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 2018 called for rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society to avert the worst disasters of climate change,” she said.

“But these kind of reports do not spur citizen action, at least not as much as Covid-19 apparently has, and especially not in Australia.”

Studies have suggested people’s feeling toward the climate crises promoted feelings of anxiety and guilt, where as anger was one of the primary reactions to the pandemic.

“This is good because anger provides a stronger motivation to change things permanently,” Weder said.

The study involved surveys of people living in Brisbane and Austria, and the comparison between the two regions shows significant differences.

Only about one third of Brisbane residents labelled climate change as the most urgent issue facing the country, compared to almost half of those in Austria.

Just over half of Brisbanites were worried or extremely worried about climate change, versus 80 per cent of Austrians.

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