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U.S. Lags Behind On Green Consumption And Behavior

The National Geographic Society and the international polling firm GlobeScan have unveiled a new mechanism for measuring and comparing individual consumer behavior as it relates to the environment. Greendex 2008: Consumer Choice and the Environment – A Worldwide Tracking Survey looks at environmentally sustainable consumption and behavior among consumers in 14 countries.

The findings show that consumers in Brazil and India tie for the highest Greendex score for environmentally sustainable consumption at 60 points each. They are followed by consumers in China (56.1), Mexico (54.3), Hungary (53.2) and Russia (52.4). Among consumers in wealthy countries, those in Great Britain, Germany and Australia each have a Greendex score of 50.2, those in Spain register a score of 50.0 and Japanese respondents, 49.1. U.S. consumers have the lowest Greendex score at 44.9. The other lowest-scoring consumers are Canadians with 48.5 and the French with 48.7.

Consumers in developing countries feel more responsible for environmental problems than those in developed countries, and six in 10 people in developing countries report that environmental problems are negatively affecting their health – twice as many as in most developed countries. Moreover, consumers in developing countries feel strongest that global warming will worsen their way of life in their lifetime, are the most engaged when it comes to talking and listening about the environment, feel the most guilt about their environmental impact and are willing to do the most to minimize that impact. Their behavior reflects their concern. People in developing countries are more likely to:

-Live in smaller residences;
-Prefer green products and own relatively few appliances or expensive electronic devices;
-Walk, cycle, or use public transportation, and choose to live close to their most common destination.

By contrast, consumers in developed countries, who have more environmentally friendly options to choose from, often don’t make those choices.

-They have larger homes and are more likely to have air-conditioning.
-They generally own more cars, drive alone most frequently and use public transport infrequently.
-They are least likely to buy environmentally friendly products and to avoid environmentally unfriendly products.
-U.S. consumers scored worse than those in any other country, developing or developed, on housing, transportation and goods. They are by far the least likely to use public transportation, to walk or bike to their destinations or to eat locally grown foods. They have among the largest average residence size in the survey. Only 15 percent say they minimize their use of fresh water.

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