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Last Updated: Friday, 7 September 2007, 07:58 GMT 08:58 UK
'Green gulf' between households
By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Recycled drinks cans
Recycling is popular, and considered to be relatively cost free
A "green gulf" has emerged between low income and better off households in the drive towards being environmentally friendly, according to charities.

Organisations contacted by BBC Scotland said there was a willingness across all social groups to "go green".

However, they added that people who were struggling financially found it difficult to make their shopping and homes eco-friendly.

Friends of the Earth said green living was harder for poorer families.

Duncan McLaren, chief executive of the organisation, said many lifestyle changes such as switching lights and appliances off when they were not in use cost nothing.

"However, we need politicians to work together more to make it cheaper and easier for everyone to live a greener lifestyle," he added.

When you are struggling to eat and heat your home your last priority is to go green
Lindsay Scott
Help the Aged

Help the Aged said older people on low incomes were keen to be environmentally-friendly, but more often the priority was spending money on heating their homes.

Lindsay Scott, communications manager, said: "There are people whose circumstances are vastly below the poverty line, living on 46-a-week, and cannot afford to go green.

"They have to buy frozen food from the cheapest places.

"There are others at the other end who drive LPG 4x4s, have energy efficient light bulbs and white goods."

Mr Scott said some utility companies took vulnerable groups, such as older people, into consideration when charging for supplies and services.

Mr Scott added: "When you are struggling to eat and heat your home your last priority is to go green."

Fuel poverty charity Energy Action Scotland said there was support through schemes such as the Central Heating Programme and Warm Deal for low income groups to keep their homes warm efficiently.

However, a spokeswoman said: "For people on a low income choosing to buy clothes for their children, or food, or what bill to pay means buying loft insulation is not going to be top of the list."

Mhairi Davies
It is basically taking the country by storm and I do feel a pang of guilt not being able to do everything
Mhairi Davies

The Child Poverty Action Group, like several other charities, said poorer families created a smaller carbon footprint - a measure of energy use and harmful emissions it is calculated to cause - than those who are better off.

A spokesman added: "There is an issue in that poor quality housing can often be quite poor in terms of energy efficiency."

He said help was available to make home improvements, however, this was not available to everyone.

When it comes to recycling household waste there is no difference in uptake across housing types, according to Waste Aware Scotland.

Its studies of 5,002 households found 81% recycled rubbish compared with 50% in 2002.

Also, 75% of households across the country now have access to kerbside recycling collections.

Mhairi Davies, 19, a single mother living in Inverness, said that while she made good use of the kerbside service she often felt a "pang of guilt" at not being able to afford eco-friendly shopping, such as eco-cleaning products.

Ms Davies, who has a four-month-old daughter Bobbi-Louise, said: "I think it is something I need to do rather than wanting to do it, but it's just not possible for the amount of money I get.

"I usually go for what's cheapest."

She added: "I do know a lot of people who want to do more, but don't have the means.

"It is basically taking the country by storm and I do feel a pang of guilt not being able to do everything."

Housing stock

The Scottish Government said everyone can play a part in tackling climate change.

It said its Central Heating and Warm Deal programmes have already helped thousands of Scots save energy and have warmer homes which are more affordable to heat.

A spokesman said: "The programmes have together insulated almost 260,000 homes and have resulted in improved energy efficiency across Scotland's housing stock.

"Although the main aim of these programmes is to help people save on their energy bills, they have an additional benefit of helping to reduce emissions."

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