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Press Release

Questionnaire Surveys on Environmental Conservation Activities of the Public, Children, and Citizens' Groups

October 6, 2003

In an effort to ensure steady implementation of the Second Basic Environment Plan that was adopted at a Cabinet meeting in December 2000, the Ministry of the Environment conducted questionnaire surveys on environmental conservation activities of the public, children, and citizens' groups. The questionnaire surveys targeting children and citizens' groups were the first of their kind. The gist of survey results are as follows.

1.    Survey on an environment-conscious lifestyle

This survey was conducted to discover the current state of environmental conservation activities being carried out by the public. Three similar surveys were conducted between FY 1995 and FY 1999 under the First Basic Environment Plan. This survey was the second conducted under the Second Basic Environment Plan. The questions were revised to meet the goals of this new environment plan. It was carried out from May 22 to June 13, 2003, surveying 3000 randomly sampled people aged 20 or older across the nation. Of these, 1,211 people responded.

(1) In regard to the state of the environment, many people responded that environmental deterioration is worsening, more so at the national and global levels than at the local level. This point of view remained unchanged from the previous survey (conducted between February 22 and March 13, 2002).

(2) Asked which environmental problems they were concerned about, 80% of the respondents cited global warming, 59% ozone depletion, 55% air pollution, and 54% the issue of inadequate waste treatment including illegal dumping. When compared with the previous survey, people were more concerned about global environmental problems--such as global warming and pollution problems including air and water pollution in developing countries--and about local problems that include air pollution, noise and vibration, and offensive odors. However, overall interest in environmental problems was down.

(3) Many respondents commented, "Environmental education is necessary for children who will become the leaders of the next generation," "Cooperation among countries is needed to solve global environmental problems," and "In consideration for the environment, reuse and recycle should be promoted instead of throwing away things after use." These opinions were also expressed in the previous survey. About 60% of the respondents answered positively to a newly added question of "Promoting environmental conservation contributes to economic development or not."

(4) As was the case in the last survey, the new survey discovered that many people are involved in conservation activities carried out as a rule. These activities include sorting garbage; sorting glass bottles, cans, and PET bottles; and recycling newspapers and magazines. Also, activities with economic merit, such as energy conservation by turning off lights and adjusting temperature setting of air conditioners and heaters, were carried out by many people. However, few people are motivated by strong environmental consciousness to donate money to environmental protection organizations, join community-based greening and beautification activities, and participate in environmental protection organizations.

(5) More people in this survey reported using solar thermal heaters than in the previous survey, but those who reported the intent to use solar thermal heaters declined. The number who reported using photovoltaic power generation remained level while the number who reported the intent to use increased slightly. The number who have not used nor have any intention of using photovoltaic power generation decreased.

(6) Eighteen percent of respondents reported that their homes were airtight and insulated, and 17% reported they want to make their homes airtight and insulated. Both figures were down from the previous survey.

(7) Asked about the ownership and purchase of low-emission vehicles, 13% of respondents said they already owned one or had ordered one; this figure is up 6 points from the previous survey. And 32% reported that they will consider a low-emission vehicle when purchasing a new one.

(8) The survey found that those who think their environmental conservation activities contribute to solving environmental problems are more enthusiastic about their activities than those who think otherwise. Over 80% reported that purchasing eco-conscious products, saving energy, garbage treatment, and community initiatives are good for conservation of the environment.

(9) Fifty-two percent of respondents have participated in the activities of citizens' groups working to conserve the environment.

(10) The most common types of participation reported were "cooperation in signature drives" and "donations of money or goods." Most respondents report participating "twice a year" or "about once a year." Popular activities were "recycling and waste," "environmental issues in general," and "nature protection, creation, and greening."

(11) Fifty-two percent of participants in environmental conservation activities of citizens' groups said they had contributed to solving environmental problems.

(12) Over 70% of respondents reported that participating in the activities of environmental citizens' groups was "something they can do for environmental conservation" and that "as a member of a society, it is better to take part in such activities."

(13) The survey found that although people have interest in getting information on environmental issues, they receive little information to satisfy their interests.

(14) The survey found that people receive environmental information mainly through "TV/radio" and "newspapers/magazines."

(15) The survey indicated that only 14% of respondents knew about the Basic Environment Plan. Only 8% said they were satisfied or mildly satisfied with the environmental administration of the central government, and 15% reported satisfaction with the local government.

2.    Eco questionnaire survey targeting children (a survey of environment-conscious lifestyle targeting elementary and junior high school children)

In parallel with the survey on environmental conscious lifestyle of the public, this survey targeted 1,000 fifth-grade elementally school children and 1,000 second grade junior high school (eighth grade) children randomly chosen from 72 schools across the nation. The survey was conducted between March 5 and March 20, 2003. A total of 1,662 children replied.

(1) More than half of the respondents recognized that their surrounding environment "had an abundance of nature such as rivers and forests" and "had many kinds of wild animals and insects," while many children also recognized that the seas, rivers and roads were contaminated.

(2) The survey found that children had a broad scope of interest in environmental problems. In particular, they expressed interest in water pollution, deforestation, global warming, and air pollution.

(3) The children expressed their awareness about environmental problems in statements such as "we should review our current lifestyle that is wasteful and generates a lot of garbage," "protecting the environment brings affluence to our life," "I am concerned about the environment of the future," "environmental problems affect me."

(4) Some environmental conservation activities that were reported to be practiced by children in their everyday life included turning off water faucets completely, switching off the TV and lights, taking care of products so they will last longer, and sorting out garbage properly. However, only half or less respondents reported participating in cleaning up local areas, refusing plastic grocery bags when shopping, or discussing environmental problems with family members and friends.

(5) The survey found that many children began environmental conservation activities because they were influenced by their mothers, TV, and school.

(6) Asked how they feel when they conduct environmental conservation activities, the respondents expressed positive feelings and attitudes, such as "it was a natural thing to do," "I felt great," "I felt as though I had done something good for society," and "I want to do more."

(7) When asked about environmental conservation activities that they intend to do in the future, over 60% of respondents cited "turning off water faucets completely," "using products carefully so they will last longer," and "switching off the TV and lights." The survey also discovered that the intention of doing activities such as "switching off the TV and lights" and "turning off water faucets completely" is greater in smaller cities.

(8) The highest percentage of respondents (27%) cited the central government as an important actor in conserving the environment.

(9) The two main sources of information on environmental problems cited are electronic media (TV and radio) and school (classes and teachers). Seventy-eight percent of respondents reported acquiring information through TV and radio while 62% reported acquiring information from school classes and teachers.

(10) More than half of the children who responded to the survey have participated in environmental conservation activities at school. Fifty-six percent stated they had heard stories from their teachers, and 50% percent had joined local cleaning and garbage collection activities.

(11) Eighteen percent of respondents knew about the Junior Eco-Club*.
* Ministry of the Environment is promoting the establishment of Junior Eco Clubs throughout Japan, for elementary and junior high school students and the adults who assist them with their environmental activities. Through these clubs, the ministry is helping children to enjoy environment-related study and activities in their local communities.

3.    Questionnaire survey on the environmental conservation activities of citizens' groups, expected under the Basic Environment Plan targeting citizens' groups

This survey was conducted to discover the current state of activities of and challenges faced by citizens' groups working to protect the environment. The questionnaires were sent out between March 17 and April 14, 2003 to 2,500 randomly-chosen groups listed in the Environmental NGOs Compendium 2001 published by the Japan Environment Corporation. Of these, 1,188 groups (or 47.5%) responded.

(1) The offices of the organizations are located mainly in big cities in the Kanto district and other ordinance-designated cities. Nearly 40% of respondents began activities in the 1990s. About 80% are unincorporated associations, 10% are corporate bodies under Civil Law, and 10% are specified as non-profit corporations.

(2) About half of the respondents have 100 or fewer individual members, and nearly half have no corporate members. About half of the respondents reported their financial size as being "less than ¥500,000," while about 20% reported "more than ¥10 million." About 40% have main offices either in private homes or in the office of the company where employed. Only about 20% percent have offices for their organization's use. Over 60% have no full-time staff.

(3) These groups perceive that the environment has been deteriorating over recent years from local to national levels, and then to global level.

(4) Over half of these groups know the contents of the Basic Environment Plan. The groups consider, among roles of citizens' groups specified in the Fundamental Environment Plan, promoting environmental conservation activities and raising awareness of the public as the most important.

(5) Many of the organizations focus on local environmental issues. While many groups also work on global environmental problems, few deal with pollution problems. About 70% work mainly at the town-, city- and prefecture-level. Many groups are working at actual sites, and about 60% have field projects in nature.

(6) Over 70% have carried out projects to help conserve the environment. Many groups work to raise public awareness or to provide information and opportunity for environmental education and learning. Environmental conservation activities are conducted mainly to change the awareness and behavior of the members in particular and the public in general.

(7) About 80% reported that they cooperated with other actors (many reported that they did so on their own initiative), and 90% reported that they planned to do so in the future. Cooperation with local governments accounted for more than 60% of such cooperation, while a significant portion also occurred with experts, NPOs, and NGOs.

(8) Over 70% of these cooperative efforts were accounted by actual activities and projects carried out together followed by supporting activities of other groups and gathering information as well as exchanging advice on subsidies and activities.

(9) About 80% of the respondents citied the improved activity content as the reason for cooperating with other actors, followed by the acquisition of knowledge and information by members. The groups reported a high level of satisfaction with such cooperative efforts and they recognize that good communication and discussion are effective ways to promote cooperation.

(10) The sources of environmental information can be categorized in several ways: activity sites, paper media, direct information exchange and communication with other people, and electronic media. No priorities are noted among the different types of media when distributing information.

(11) The main contents of acquired environmental information are local environmental problems, local government measures and policies on the environment, and those related to everyday life. It was found that major contents of information sent out are also on these subjects.

(12) While less than 10% of respondents said they were "satisfied" with their own group's environmental activities, this figure was over 50% when the response of "mildly satisfied" was included. The challenges to improve their activities are the lack of funding and the lack of human resources.

(13) The challenge to training staff members was the acquisition of the basic knowledge about environmental problems.

(14) In an effort to reduce environmental impact, many groups have already been using recycled paper and reducing the amount of garbage when holding events. About 60% said they had already implemented or planned to implement such activities.

(15) In regard to the effect of such activities, about 60% of respondents said that members' awareness of the environment has improved. This figure and the response that "the environmental awareness of different actors in local communities improved" indicate that their activities have contributed to improving environmental awareness in general.

(16) The level of satisfaction with environmental administration was low. But the satisfaction levels were higher according to the proximity to their localities, meaning the highest satisfaction was with municipal administration and the lowest with the central government.

(17) The highest percentage of respondents (about 40%) cites financial assistance as the aid expected from the central government in order to strengthen their environmental conservation activities.

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