Habits and behavior

Policies that involve increasing the responsibility of individuals to change their behavior will have different impacts on different social groups. According to environmental surveys in all the Nordic countries, including Sweden and Iceland, women are more likely to change their behavior than men and willing to spend and sacrifice more for the sake of the environment and climate. However, it seems that women are more likely than men to underestimate and downplay their knowledge of environmental issues.

Consumption and eating habits

Eating habits differ by gender, and studies indicate that men generally consume more meat products than women. The emission of greenhouse gases due to cattle breeding and the consumption of meat pollutes the most of all food production. The results of a study on Icelandic diets conducted between 2019 and 2021 indicate that Icelandic men on average do not only consume more meat per week (736 gr) than women (435 gr). They also eat twice as much processed meat products as women. Women accounted for the majority of those who said they ate vegetarian dishes as their main course, and they are more likely than men to want to reduce their meat consumption and the consumption of animal products (38% versus 23%).

Women play a major role when it comes to consumption and purchasing, as they are often responsible for purchasing for the whole family. Because of this, women are often addressed as the largest consumer group globally. However, it is worth noting that they themselves do not consume all the items purchased for the home. Research then shows that the average carbon footprint of single men is over 10,000 kg per year compared to 8,100 kg for single women. This is because men spend more money on items and products that are more carbon intensive such as petrol, cars and meat products, while women spend more on items such as furniture and clothes that have a lower carbon footprint.

Recycling and sorting

There is evidence that women are more likely to recycle and sort waste at home than men. There also seems to be a gender-based division of labor where men are more likely to be responsible for taking waste to sorting centers. An increased focus on the sorting of household waste will therefore probably have a greater impact on women, as they are more likely than men to change their behavior and that of their family in favor of the environment and climate.

Energy consumption

When it comes to energy saving in European countries, women find it most useful to receive better information about energy efficiency and savings in order to change their behavior. Men, on the other hand, are more interested in technical solutions such as energy-saving household appliances or public subsidies. When choosing an energy vendor, men mainly consider the price while women also consider the environmental impact of energy sources. Policies that focus on energy savings within households will most likely have a greater impact on women than men, as women are more likely to change their behavior to save energy and they tend to spend more time on household chores than men. Women are also more likely than men to live in so-called “energy poverty” because of lower incomes. It is therefore more difficult for low-income groups to invest in more environmentally friendly or energy-efficient options for the home, such as energy-saving household appliances, as they usually cost more.

Environmental surveys in the Nordic countries

In the Nordic countries, women are more concerned about climate change than men, and young women are the most concerned age group. Women in the Nordic countries are also more likely to participate in measures to prevent climate change, such as eating more vegetarian food, buying and selling used clothes and buying fewer new clothes and consumer goods.

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Personal values and behaviors

According to research, people who act and think of themselves as part of a whole and show selflessness are more likely to promote sustainability, change their behavior in favor of the environment, and be concerned about environmental and climate issues. On the other hand, people who favor class division and individualism are more likely to downplay environmental and climate issues. People who are in favor of status quo are less likely to recognize or face climate change. These are often people in management positions who personally benefit from the status quo and current priorities. In this context, research indicates that men are usually the majority of people in management positions and are therefore more likely to justify the system as it is. A study also notes that men seem to avoid choosing a female partner or companion who embraces masculine values and behavior in environmental matters, as they question their heterosexuality. However, it seems that the same does not apply to men who display feminine values and behaviors in environmental matters. It may therefore be that there are certain prejudices against women who do not adhere to the expected feminine values and behavior in society, which consequently promotes gender stereotypes.

In general, however, women seem to have more knowledge of climate and environmental issues than men. Even so, they are more likely to underestimate and downplay their knowledge of the issue. More than half of the people in Iceland feel that they know neither a lot nor a little about climate change, but Icelandic men are slightly more likely to say they know a lot or rather a lot about climate change than women.

Concerns about climate change

In the Nordic countries, women are more concerned about climate change than men, and young women are the most concerned age group. Icelandic women are more concerned than men about the consequences that climate change could have on their families and think more about their impact on the environment. Icelandic women are also more likely than Icelandic men to want to change their behavior for the benefit of the environment (73% of women versus 53% of men). Icelandic men also feel that their behavior has very little or no effect on environmental and climate issues (44% of men versus 17% of women) and are also more likely to think that on a global scale the public can have little, very little or even no impact on the environment and climate. Icelandic men are also more likely to think that news about the severity of global warming is exaggerated (28% of men versus 15% of women).

Women in the Nordic countries are more likely to participate in measures to prevent climate change, such as eating more vegetarian food, buying and selling used clothes and buying fewer new clothes and consumer goods. Young women in the Nordic countries are more prepared than any other age group to intervene in environmental issues.

Responsibility and effort

More than half of Icelanders feel that Iceland is doing too little to tackle climate change, and, in that, women are the majority. Men are slightly more likely to be fully satisfied with their own efforts towards environmental and climate issues, while women are more likely to be less satisfied with their efforts. Icelandic women are also more likely to think that individuals are responsible for actions to mitigate global warming, and are slightly more likely than men to think that the public sector and companies are responsible. Men answered slightly more often than women that individuals, companies and the public sector had rather little, very little or no responsibility for action to prevent global warming. Some men might also view it as a threat to their masculinity or their position in society to change their behavior due to climate change, as it has acquired a feminine label. Telling men to stop eating meat and driving big cars could therefore prove difficult if work is not done to break down gender stereotypes as well.

Impact on people with disabilities

It has been suggested that people with disabilities often feel like culprits or outcasts in environmental and climate issues. Environmental policies and solutions are often ableist, based on the ability and competence of those who create and develop policies in environmental and climate matters. In this context, people with disabilities are seen as second-class members of society. An example of that is the ban on plastic straws and cutlery, which has a negative impact on people with disabilities, and people with disabilities may not have the help, ability or energy to clean reusable straws and cutlery.

Tax burden and equity

Increasing the tax burden or costs on non-environmental goods has proven to be a popular way for governments to promote changing people's habits in the fight against climate change. An increased tax burden will be the worst for the poorest, and it is therefore important that the Government develops countermeasures so that inequality does not increase. Tax incentives should take into account the different financial situation of people and support the groups that need the most help. For example, a certain part of the money received from carbon/pollution fees could be earmarked directly for activities or households in a vulnerable position. It would also be possible to work with the private sector to make environmentally friendly products available and at a reasonable price.

Individual behavior and climate and environment issues

Women are more likely to participate in action to curb climate change and appear to have more knowledge of climate and environmental issues than men. Even so, women are more likely to underestimate and downplay their knowledge of the issue.