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Feb 162010

Green Right Now Reports

A new Harris Poll finds that Americans are still acting cautiously when it comes to weathering the sour economy.

And some of  the money-saving steps they are taking qualify as green behaviors, though whether or not this has been intentional was not addressed in the poll of 2,576 adults surveyed online between January 18 and 25, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

The poll found, for instance, that:

  • 34 percent of Americans polled said they had switched to using refillable water bottles instead of purchasing pre-bottled water.
  • 22 percent said they had cut down on dry cleaning
  • 14 percent said they had begun carpooling or using mass transit

The switch to refillable water bottles will save on landfill space, and the manufacturing costs of disposable plastic bottles. Even though this type of plastic bottle is recyclable, studies show that the vast majority are simply discarded, filling up landfills and persisting in the environment for hundreds of years.

Reducing one’s exposure to dry cleaning chemicals can be a healthful switch because the main dry cleaning agent, perchloroethylene, known as “perc,” is considered to be a likely human carcinogen, according to government reports. The dry cleaning industry says personal exposure to perc from dry cleaned clothes is small and not harmful, and it points to recapture efforts that are reducing the amount of perc released into the natural environment. Still, a robust alternative network of cleaners is emerging. These new green cleaners shun perc.

As for the shift to mass transit, the Harris Poll found that this behavior was most evident among the youngest generation of adults, with those in middle age preferring to remain in their cars. Moving to mass transit or carpooling is among the biggest green shifts that a person can take to reduce their carbon footprint, because vehicle emissions are a leading cause of dirty air.

The Harris survey aimed to see what Americans were doing to cope with difficult times and whether they were feeling more at ease with recent improved economic predictions. It asked, simply: “Have you done, or considered doing, any of the following over the past six months in order to save money?” It then offered a menu of choices.

The results:

  • 63 percent said they are purchasing more generic brands
  • 45 percent are brown bagging, at least part of the time, instead of purchasing lunch
  • 39 percent are going to the hairdresser/barber/ stylist less often
  • 34 percent have switched to refillable water bottles
  • 33 percent have canceled one or more magazine subscriptions
  • 22 percent have cut down on dry cleaning
  • 22 percent have cut back on cable television service
  • 21 percent have quit buying coffee in the morning
  • 19 percent have canceled a newspaper subscription
  • 17 percent have canceled cell phone service
  • 15 percent have canceled land line service and only use  cell phones
  • 14 percent have begun carpooling or using mass transit

Where have Americans refused to cut back? On their cell phones. The poll found that 52 percent said they have not, and were not considering, canceling that service.(Though, obviously, 15 percent did cut cell phones from the budget.)