Households and the Environment Survey (HES)

Detailed information for 2005-2006





Record number:


The Household 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 design to collect data to develop and improve three key environmental indicators: air quality, water quality and greenhouse gas emissions.

Data release - July 11, 2007


The objective of the survey is to provide context to the science (i.e. the actual measures of air & 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 carried out in 1994, 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 consciousnesses since the last iteration of the survey. Changes in their environmental practices and behaviours are reflective of these growing concerns. In order to gauge these changes, HES measure some of the same environmental variables that were measured in HES in 1991 and 1994; however other environmental practices has been measured as well. Below is a list of components that are covered in the 2006 HES.

a) Consumption and conservation of water
b) Energy use and Home Heating
c) Gasoline powered equipment use
d) Pesticide and fertilizer use
e) Recycling, composting and waste disposal practices
f) Air and water quality
g) Transportation decisions

Statistical activity

The Canadian System of Environmental-Economic 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.


  • Environment
  • Pollution and waste

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population consists of households in Canada excluding households in which no member is 18 years old or more. Also excluded are households located in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, households located on Indian Reserves and military bases, and households consisting entirely of full time members of the Canadian Armed Forces. For a subset of questions, the survey targets adults 18 years of age or older living in the households included in the survey's main target population. The survey therefore aims at providing two different units of analysis: the household for most questions relating to the impact of the household on the environment, and the person for questions relating to the modes of transportation used to travel to work.

Instrument design

The questionnaire was designed by Statistics Canada in consultation with stakeholders and in consideration of the data needs of the larger research and policy communities.

Testing of the questionnaire was done by Statistics Canada's Questionnaire Design Research Centre (QDRC) using focus group methodology. Focus group consultations along with a number of one-on-one interviews were conducted in both English and French by the QDRC in 5 cities across the country in July and August 2005.

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 on-line 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 begins with the households from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) in February 2006, record number 3701. The sample was selected in order to allow for reliable estimates, i.e. with a coefficient of variation (CV) of 16.5% or better for proportions as small as 10% in 28 Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA) and in the non-CMA portion of each province. The initial sample size consisted of 36,431 households and assumed a response rate of 75%.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2006-02-15 to 2006-04-15

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

The collection for the HES followed the Labour Force Survey (LFS) in February, March and April 2006. Once the LFS was completed for all eligible members in a household, the interviewer asked to speak to the person who was most knowledgeable about household practices relating to the environment in order to complete the HES. Depending on this person's availability and operational constraints, the HES interview was completed immediately or arrangements were made to call back in order to complete the interview. An automated call scheduler managed follow-up calls in order to try different times of day throughout the collection period.

Interviews for the HES were conducted from Statistics Canada's regional offices using a Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) application. During the interview, the computer survey application randomly selected one eligible member, 18 years of age or older. This person was the subject, through proxy response if this person was not the HES respondent, of a subset of questions relating to the modes of transportation used to travel to work. The initial sample size consisted of 36,431 households. A 77.8% response rate yields an effective sample of 28,334 responding households to the HES. Provincial response rates ranged from 73.1% to 83.3%.

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

Error detection

The HES questionnaire incorporates many features to maximize the quality of the data collected. There are multiple edits in the computer assisted interview questionnaire to compare the entered data against unusual values. Other edits check for logical inconsistencies in these sections of the questionnaire as well as in other sections with multiple choice responses. When an edit fails, the interviewer is prompted to correct the information (with the help of the respondent). For most of the income and expenditure edit failures, the interviewer has the ability to override the edit failure if it cannot be resolved. As well, the interviewer has the ability to enter a response of Don't Know or Refused if the respondent does not answer the question.

Once the data is received back at head office an extensive series of processing steps is undertaken to examine each record received. A top-down flow edit cleaned up any paths that may have been mistakenly followed during the interview. The editing and imputation phases of processing identify logically inconsistent or missing information items, and correct such errors.


This methodology does not apply.


Household estimates are produced using weights attached to each sampled household. The weight of a sampled household indicates the number of households in the population that the unit represents. The initial weight was provided by the LFS and incorporated the probability of selecting the household in their sample, as well as other adjustments such as the treatment of non-response to the LFS.

In addition, person-level estimates are produced using a second weight which is attached to each individual (18 years of age or older) who was randomly selected from a sampled household as the subject of a subset of questions relating to the modes of transportation used to travel to work. The weight of a sampled individual indicates the number of people in the population that this person represents.

In order to produce both weights, a first adjustment was made to the initial weight to reflect that only a sub-sample of the LFS was used. Depending on the size of the LFS sample in a given domain of interest, different numbers of LFS panels (from 2 to 6) were surveyed for the HES. The second adjustment was made to account for the LFS Computer-Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) cases that were not interviewed for the HES. The third adjustment started with this interim weight for the sampled household, and inflated it to represent the non-respondent households who did not participate in the HES but who did participate in the LFS. All units selected for the HES were modeled using a logistic regression to calculate their propensity to respond. This probability was used to group records into clusters. The inverse of the observed response rate in each cluster was used as this third adjustment factor.

To produce the final person-weight, a fourth adjustment was made to account for the selection of a single household member for the Travelling Decisions Module. Then, the fifth adjustment used Generalized regression (GREG) estimation to calibrate the interim HES person-weights - matching the age-sex distributions for each province and the population counts for several CMAs. These population projections were taken from the same totals used in the LFS. The final HES person-weight is the outcome of these five adjustments to the initial LFS sub-weight.

To produce the final household-weight, the final person-weight is modified by undoing the fourth adjustment above (to return to a household-level for estimation) before a fifth and final adjustment is performed by calibrating to independent estimates of the distribution of households in each region according to size (i.e., one, two, or three or more occupants).

The quality of the estimates is assessed using estimates of their coefficient of variation (CV). Given the complexity of the HES design, CVs cannot be calculated using a simple formula. Bootstrap replicate weights were used to establish the CVs of the estimates.

Quality evaluation

A comparison of social and demographic domains from HES was made with previous surveys to ensure consistency. Subject matter experts made selective data confrontations with other data sources.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that 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.

In order to prevent any data disclosure, confidentiality analysis is done using the Statistics Canada Generalized Disclosure Control System (G-Confid). G-Confid is used for primary suppression (direct disclosure) as well as for secondary suppression (residual disclosure). Direct disclosure occurs when the value in a tabulation cell is composed of or dominated by few enterprises while residual disclosure occurs when confidential information can be derived indirectly by piecing together information from different sources or data series.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy

The coverage error of the Labour Force Survey, of which the HES is a sub-sample, is estimated at less than 2%. The exclusion of households in which no member is 18 years old or over is considered negligible.

The response rate for this survey was 77.8%. Provincial response rates ranged from 73.1% to 83.3%.

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

- 16.5% and below Acceptable;
- 16.6% to 33.3% Marginal, with cautionary note; and
- Above 33.3% 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, coefficient of variations for the estimated proportion of households who used pesticides on their lawn or garden in 2005 for Canada and the provinces are as follows:

CA 1.4%
NL 6.5%
PEI 10.2%
NS 6.1%
NB 10.8%
QC 5.8%
ON 2.1%
MB 3.8%
SK 3.5%
AB 3.1%
BC 3.9%

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