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The Independent Online
While anti-roads protesters in Devon fight to save the environment, the British public's interest in being "green" appears to be waning, according to Social Trends, writes Glenda Cooper.

"One way of measuring people's concern about environmental matters is by looking at their actions," said Alyson Whitmarsh, one of the authors. "For example, the proportion of people who select one product instead of another because of its environmentally friendly packaging, or formulation, has fallen since the early 1990s."

Almost half of us said we chose environmentally friendly products in 1991. This had fallen to just over one-third by 1996. It was still higher, however, than in the late-1980s. Over the same period, the proportion of those who gave, or raised, money for environmental issues dropped from 57 to 51 per cent and membership of an environmental group went down from 13 to 10 per cent.

Recycling still remains popular, and seven out of 10 people sometimes recycle bottles, paper or cans. The number of bottle-banks in Great Britain has risen from 17 in 1977 to nearly 13,000 in 1994.

"Globally, nine out of 10 of the hottest years on record have occurred since 1983," said Ms Whitmarsh. "As we all know, carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas contributing to global warming and therefore climate change. However, since 1971 total emissions of carbon dioxide have fallen, but an increasing amount of this gas now comes from transport emissions."

The British remain stubbornly wedded to their cars. Although almost nine out of 10 people believed traffic congestion would be one of the most serious problems over the next 20 years, the average daily flow of vehicles on all roads in Britain increased by about half between 1981 and 1995 and motorway flows virtually doubled.

Britain had the highest proportion of its passenger traffic travelling by car in Europe in 1994. And almost seven in 10 adults held a driving licence in 1993-95, compared with only five in 10 in 1975-76.

Buses were the next most popular form of transport after cars. Although the number of passenger journeys continues to fall, there was a 26 per cent increase in bus mileage between 1985-86 and 1995-96., largely due to more frequent services using smaller buses.

The most environmentally sound of all forms of transport continued to wane. The average distance walked by each person each year in Britain fell by one-fifth between 1975-76 and 1993-95.with the largest fall being recorded for children aged 5 to 15 as parents become increasingly likely to drive their children to school. The average adult walked 321km a year.