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Last changed: 5/03/13
The promotion of environmental awareness of the population is one of the fundamental challenges facing environmental policy. One significant means of achieving this is to improve the communication of environmental issues, which covers a broad range of individual measures (public information, consultation, and education). The conduct of research projects on these themes is one of the principal tasks of socio-scientific environmental research.
The successful communication of environmental issues requires reliable and valid knowledge of the points of view held by the population at large, including their value systems and willingness to act on what is communicated. The representative surveys carried out throughout Germany every two years since 1996 in the name of the Federal Environment Agency serve to provide an overview of the state of environmental awareness. The study on environmental awareness in Germany in 2012 in German adopts a new approach: it explores the innovation potential for more sustainability in the daily lives of the people polled in four different fields of action – mobility, food purchasing, household organisation and home living. It makes use of a new model of "lifestyle types". Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier and UBA President Jochen Flasbarth presented the results of the study “Umweltbewusstsein in Deutschland 2012” on 18th January 2013 (Video in German).
In-depth study of milieus and conflicting demands of environment and justice in German:
Based on the commonly heard thesis that socially disadvantaged groups are disproportionately affected by environmental pollution (e.g. noise, air, fewer open spaces in residential areas), the report makes proposals for how the potential of these milieus can be mobilized to adopt environmentally conscious behaviour.
Involvement and delegation in German:
The concepts of acceptance of responsibility for environmental protection and the expectations of governmental environmental policy are different from one social group (milieu) to the next. This study developed a typology for understanding the correlations of personal involvement and delegation (in the sense of "making someone accountable for").
Environmental consciousness and behaviour of young adults in German:
If environmental and nature conservation organisations want to reach the target group of young adults in greater numbers they must better understand their world and offer opportunities for involvement appropriate to their needs. One important difference in particular which must be taken into account is that between the pragmatic milieu and the "poorly educated" young adults. Special programmes must be developed for this target group.
The study entitled Environmental Awareness and Environmental Behavior of the Social Milieus in Germany in German used data from the survey taken in 2008 to identify four "core target groups" which play a strong leadership and multiplier role in society. Whereas the milieu of the "post-materialists" already demonstrates strong environmental orientation the other core target groups and leading milieus ("Etablierte", "Moderne Performer" and "Bürgerliche Mitte") must still be convinced that protecting the environment means more quality of life. For the more consumption-oriented groups (e.g. "hedonists") or traditional milieus (e.g. "conservatives"), the most promising approach to environmental communication is to focus directly on the issue with the most simple and exemplary messages possible.
Also for the 2006 survey detailed sociological analyses are now available for download.
The study on Tendencies in Environmental and Risk Awareness in an Age of Pluralistic Values in German is concerned above all with the question of which kinds of value systems are professed by those interviewed and what effects do these various systems have on the evaluation of environmental questions and the acceptance of various different instruments of environmental policy.
The primary theme of the study Determinants of environmental behaviour – between rhetoric and engagement in German is the purchasing behaviour of German citizens and the readiness to take environmental responsibility in that context.
The investigation Behaviour concerning Environmental Information and the Readiness of Citizens to Engage with Environmental Protection in German provides information on people’s ways of coping with the flood of information and the reasons behind the fact that up to now, only few citizens have been prepared to actively engage in environmental protection.
Principal object of the study The Tension between Environment and Justice in Public Perception in German examines the growing connections between environmental protection and social justice.
Brochures providing an overview of the antecedent studies are also available to download:
A complementary study carried out in 2004 by the Institute for Tourism and Development (Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung e.V.) on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency paid close attention to a block of questions in the ”Reiseanalyse 2004” (Travel Analysis 2004 – a regular representative survey with a specific theme with a total of 7,700 interviewees). The assessment of these questions provided evidence that sustainable tourism continues to have good prospects, for the environment is in no way a closed book to German tourists. Quite the contrary: German holidaymakers place a high value on a clean environment. An unspoilt environment at the place of destination, and respect for the customs and traditions of the host country are deemed to be very important. Over 70 per cent of those asked are opposed to the impairment of landscape by buildings. Only a small proportion (14 per cent) of those asked considered environmentally-friendly policies to be a strongly limiting factor at their holiday destination. Almost two-thirds, however, saw no adverse effect.
However, if more far-reaching trends are to be set in motion, the basically high levels of awareness of the environment on the part of German holidaymakers need to be developed yet further. To this end, a typology of ”responsive types” has been constructed, for example people who are strongly interested in nature or who have particularly exacting expectations of their holidays.
The study Urlaubsreisen und Umwelt Eine Untersuchung über die Ansprechbarkeit der Bundesbürger auf Umweltaspekte in Zusammenhang mit Urlaubsreisen [Responsiveness of the German Population to Questions of Nature and the Environment as related to Holiday Travelling] can be ordered (upon payment of shipping charges) from the Institute for Tourism and Development in Ammerland (e-mail email@example.com or at www.studienkreis.org, category ”Publications”)
As far as their attitude to environmental issues is concerned, the largest group of immigrants living in Germany - the 2.5 million-strong group of migrants of Turkish origin – barely differs from the population as a whole. However, there are significant knowledge deficits in respect of what environmentally-responsible behaviour is actually supposed to be. This was the conclusion of a study carried out in September 2002 by the Center for Studies on Turkey (Stiftung Zentrum für Türkeistudien [ZfT]) commissioned jointly by the Federal Ministry of the Environment and the Federal Environment Agency – the study being complementary to the general population survey carried out in that year.
This study combined expert interviews with a telephone survey carried out in 500 households of Turkish origin in Germany. It showed that migrants of Turkish origin are also highly sensitive to the dangers posed by environmental pollution and have a positive basic attitude to environmental protection measures. At the same time, they have information gaps in respect of the deeper interconnectedness of environmental problems, as well as a lack of information - lamented over by the migrants themselves - on practical steps for environmental protection which they themselves could take. As became apparent in the surveys of experts which were carried out in tandem, only very few projects or measures currently exist which are aimed specifically at involving migrants in information and consultancy work for practical environmental protection.
The study Environmental Awareness and Behaviour of Turkish Migrants in Germany in German was published in 2003 in the Book series of the UNESCO-Liaison Office for Environmental Education at the Federal Environment Agency.
A general consensus has emerged that, with the establishment of the notion of sustainability, a new phase in environmental politics has begun. A model of the future which sees participation as key to shaping our collective destiny is increasingly occupying centre stage in the public debate.
In general, the sustainability model makes stringent demands on the communication of environmental issues. More people should be reached on a broader front than has so far been the case. Socio-scientific research results will play a decisive role in this development. The Federal Environment Agency’s ”Strategies for the Popularisation of the Sustainability Model” project is an attempt to tackle this challenge head on. The study resulted in the report ”Perspectives on Establishing the Sustainability Model in the Communication of Environmental Issues - Opportunities, Barriers, and Potentials in the Social Sciences” in German” (Berlin 2001, Erich Schmidt Verlag), which is available in book stores.
In another project, called ”Integration of Socio-scientific Knowledge into Environmental Communication in German”, the Environmental Policy Research Centre at the Free University of Berlin researched the possibilities for improving knowledge transfer between the social sciences and the drivers of environmental policy. The report was published as one of a series of publications of the UNESCO-Liaison Office for Environmental Education at the Federal Environment Agency.