Households and the Environment Survey (HES)

Detailed information for 2011




Every 2 years

Record number:


The Households and the Environment Survey (HES) measures the environmental practices and behaviours of Canadian households that relate to the condition of our air, water and soils. The survey was also designed to collect data to develop and improve three key environmental indicators: air quality, water quality and greenhouse gas emissions.

Data release - September 5, 2012 (First in a series of releases for this reference period.)


The objective of the survey is to provide context to scientific measures of air and water quality, and greenhouse gas emissions, by gaining a better understanding of household behaviour and practices with respect to the environment.

Since the HES was first conducted in 1991, environmental priorities and concerns have changed for Canadians. The quality of drinking water, the impact of residential pesticide use and the impact of hazardous waste on human health are only some of the newer issues that have moved to the forefront of Canadians' collective consciousness. Changes in environmental practices and behaviours are reflective of these growing concerns. In order to gauge these changes, the HES measures some of the same environmental variables that were measured by the HES in previous cycles; however other environmental practices have been measured as well. (A list of topics that are covered in the HES is available in the "Summary of changes" link.)

Statistical activity

The Canadian System of Environmental and Resource Accounts provides a conceptually integrated framework of statistics (in physical and monetary terms) and analysis for studying the relationship between the environment and human and economic activity. It presents detailed statistics describing 1) the size of Canada's natural resource stocks and their contribution to national wealth; 2) the extraction of these same resources and their disposition among businesses, households, governments and the rest of the world; 3) the generation of various wastes (liquid, solid and gaseous) by industries, households and governments and the management of these wastes; and 4) the expenditures made by businesses, households and governments for the purposes of protecting the environment. The accounts are, to the greatest extent possible, compatible with the Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts (CSMA). They were developed in response to the need to better monitor the relationship between economic activity and the environment.

Reference period: The calendar year corresponding to the reference year.


  • Environment
  • Families, households and housing

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population consists of households in Canada, excluding households located in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, households located on reserves and in other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces; and households consisting entirely of full-time members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Institutions and households in certain remote regions are also excluded.

Instrument design

The questionnaire was designed by Statistics Canada in consultation with stakeholders involved in the Canadian Environment Sustainability Indicators project and in consideration of the data needs of both the project and the larger research and policy communities. Testing of the questionnaire was done by Statistics Canada's Questionnaire Design Research Centre (QDRC). A number of one-on-one interviews were conducted in both English and French by Statistics Canada's Questionnaire Design Resource Centre in Ottawa in April and May 2011.

Starting with the 2009 cycle of the survey, the questionnaire includes a series of questions to determine respondents' awareness and knowledge of radon. If they indicate they have heard of radon, they are subsequently asked to describe radon in their own words (IE_Q12). The responses to this question are then assessed as being "correct" or "incorrect" relative to the definition of radon, and fed into the IE_D12 variable.

The questionnaire was designed to follow standard practices and wording, when applicable, in a computer-assisted interviewing environment. This included the automatic control of question wording and flows that depended upon answers to earlier questions and the use of online edits to check for logical inconsistencies and gross capture errors.

The computer application for data collection was subjected to extensive testing before its use in the survey.


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

The HES sample was selected from the 2011 (January to June) respondents to the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS). All the details of the CCHS sample design can be obtained upon request. The HES 2011 total sample size of 20,000 was allocated using the Kish method so that good quality estimates can be produced at the national and provincial levels, as well as at both the census metropolitan area (CMA) and the non-CMA - by province - levels. Note that the target coefficient of variation (CV) of 16.5% (for proportions of 10%) could not always be achieved in the smallest CMA/non-CMA portions when the number of CCHS respondents to select from was not sufficient.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2011-10-03 to 2012-04-30

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents and extracted from administrative files.

The 2011 version of the Households and the Environment Survey (HES) was conducted in two parts: a telephone interview, and a supplemental mail-out/mail-back survey.

Telephone Interview:

The content of the telephone survey, conducted from October to November 2011, focused on the behaviours and practices of the household relating to the environment. Data were collected directly from a representative of the selected household. The HES was conducted from Statistics Canada's regional offices using a computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) application.

Energy Use supplement:

The content of the Energy Use supplement included questions on the dwelling characteristics, household appliances, electrical devices, heating and cooling equipment and amounts of energy consumed by the household during the 2011 calendar year. Data collection for the Energy Use supplement will be carried out between January to November 2012. The selected households will be asked to complete the survey by filling out a paper questionnaire.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s).

Error detection

The HES questionnaire incorporated many features to maximize the quality of the data collected. There were multiple edits in the computer-assisted interview questionnaire to compare the entered data against unusual values and logical inconsistencies between sections of the questionnaire. When an edit failed, the interviewer was prompted to correct the information, with the help of the respondent. As well, the interviewer had the ability to enter a response of "Don't Know" or "Refused" if the respondent did not answer the question.

Once the data were received at Statistics Canada's head office, an extensive series of processing steps was undertaken to examine each record received. A top-down flow edit was used to clean up any question paths that may have been mistakenly followed during the interview.

Questions related to radon - The 2009 and 2011 cycles of the Households and the Environment Survey asked respondents a series of questions to determine their awareness and knowledge of radon. If they indicated they had heard of radon, they were subsequently asked to describe radon in their own words (IE_Q12). The responses to this question were then assessed as being "correct" or "incorrect" relative to the definition of radon, and fed into the IE_D12 variable.

In 2011, consultation with Health Canada resulted in changing the criteria that would yield a "correct" definition of radon by a respondent. The new criteria were more consistent with Health Canada material that was used in their radon outreach program during the reference period for the 2011 cycle. It was also decided to reprocess the 2009 variable, using the same criteria that were being used in 2011, so that the data would be comparable.


This methodology type does not apply to this survey.


Estimates representing in-scope households were produced by assigning weights to each sampled household. The weight of a sampled household indicated the number of households in the population that the unit represented. The initial weight was provided by the CCHS and incorporated the probability of selecting the unit in their sample, as well as other adjustments such as the treatment of non-response to the CCHS.

In order to produce the HES weights, a first adjustment was made to the initial weight to reflect the fact that only a subsample of the CCHS was used for Ontario and Quebec. A second adjustment was made to account for the HES nonresponse. Finally, a third and final adjustment was made to produce the final weight. This final adjustment consisted of a post-stratification to the Census projections. The quality of the estimates was assessed using estimates of their CV. Given the complexity of the HES design, CVs cannot be calculated using a simple formula therefore bootstrap replicate weights were used to obtain estimates of the CVs.

Quality evaluation

All published data were compared to identical or similar HES data from previous surveys to ensure consistency. Explanations were found for any significant changes. Subject-matter experts confronted the data using other sources as well as by identifying and researching any values that were not consistent with others in the same domain.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology type does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy


The coverage error of the CCHS, of which the HES is a subsample, is estimated at less than 2%.

Response rates and sampling error:

The response rate for this survey was 74.3%. Provincial response rates ranged from 68.9% to 78.7%.

The results estimated from HES are based on a sample of households in Canada. The results obtained from asking the same questions to all Canadian households would differ to some known extent. The extent of this sampling error is quantified by the CV with the following guidelines:

- 16.5% and below: acceptable estimate
- 16.6% to 33.3%: marginal estimate requiring cautionary note to users; and
- 33.3% and above: unacceptable estimate.

Estimates that do not meet an acceptable level of quality are either flagged for caution or suppressed. CV tables are prepared by Statistics Canada and made available to help users understand the quality of individual estimates. For example, CVs for the estimated proportion of households gave a correct description of radon (as a proportion of households that had heard of radon) for Canada and the provinces are as follows:

Canada 3.5%
Newfoundland and Labrador 15.9%
Prince Edward Island 16.8%
Nova Scotia 9.4%
New Brunswick 9.9%
Quebec 7.1%
Ontario 6.5%
Manitoba 12.3%
Saskatchewan 10.8%
Alberta 11.0%
British Columbia 9.1%

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