Consumption, innovation and the environment

Household Consumption (EPIC)


Environmental pressures from households are significant, and without continued policy efforts their impacts are likely to intensify over the coming years. The analysis of environmental policy from the demand side is receiving increasing attention from governments but developing growth strategies that promote greener lifestyles and consumption patterns remains a challenge. Each survey allows for the refinement of policy lessons learned, building on the experience gained from comparison across environmental domains and countries and over time.

Main phases

A ground-breaking OECD Survey offers new insight to policy-makers into what really works and what factors influence household behaviour towards the environment and provides answers to one key question: How to improve the impact of policies encouraging greener behaviour by better understanding responses to measures?

The survey on Environmental Policy and Individual Behaviour Change (EPIC) run periodically with a sample of more than 10 000 respondents across a number of countries and areas: energy, food, transport, waste and water.

The survey provided a unique common framework to gather evidence on what affects household decisions-making. The analysis of the survey response was used to support the design of more effective and efficient policies targeting household greener behaviour while taking social aspects into account. Policy impact can be evaluated at the country-level and compared across countries.



Personal behaviour and choices in daily life, from what we eat to how we get to work or heat our homes, have a significant – and growing – effect on the environment. But why are some households greener than others? And what factors motivate green household choices?

Answering these questions is vital for helping governments design and target policies that promote "greener" behaviour. The OECD’s Environmental Policy and Individual Behaviour Change (EPIC) survey is designed to do just that. This large-scale household survey explores what drives household environmental behaviour and how policies may affect household decisions. It focuses on five areas in which households have significant environmental impact: energy, food, transport, waste and water.

This policy paper is based on the second round of the EPIC survey, carried out in 2011 (the first was in 2008). The survey collected information from more than 12 000 households in Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Israel, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Policy Perspectives ON...








  • Greening Household Behaviour: Overview from the 2011 Survey (2014), this publication presents a data overview of the most recent round of the survey implemented in five areas (energy, food, transport, waste, and water) and eleven countries: Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Israel, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

  • Greening Household Behaviour: The Role of Public Policy (2011), this publication is based on the analysis of responses from over 10 000 households in ten countries: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The book offers new insight into what policy measures really work, looking at what factors affect people’s behaviour towards the environment in the five areas: residential energy use, water consumption, personal transport choices, organic food consumption, and waste generation and recycling.

  • Full list of Environment Working Papers on Greening Household Behaviour.

Previous work of the Environment Directorate on Household Consumption

The project on Household Behaviour and Environmental Policy was initiated with a review of existing empirical evidence on the main factors affecting people's behaviour towards the environment (Household Behaviour and the Environment: Reviewing the Evidence, 2008).

This project builds on previous OECD work on sustainable consumption developed since 1994. The activity was initiated with a comprehensive programme combining the development of a conceptual framework for the analysis of the effects of household consumption on the environment, sector case studies documenting trends, environmental impacts, and policy response in five areas of household consumption (food, tourism-related travel, energy, water and waste generation), and policy recommendations to influence household consumption. The results of this work were released as a publication "Towards Sustainable Household Consumption? Trends and Policies in OECD Countries" and a series of Working Papers.

Work focussing on energy-consuming consumer durables such as motor vehicles or household appliances was undertaken addressing key issues to reduce impacts from durable design, production, use and disposal. A report "Decision-making and environmental policy design for consumer durables" on the environmental and policy implications of household decisions with respect to consumer durable purchases is available. This reviews some of the challenges facing policy makers as they seek to design environmentally effective and economically efficient environmental policies in this area.




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