By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
The latest Harris Poll on green behavior in America is a good news/bad news story.
The good news: Most people have done something that’s green, by recycling a computer or cell phone; switching to tap water from bottled; made their home more energy efficient in some way.
The bad news: Only a tiny fraction of US residents (2 percent) own hybrid cars and vast numbers of people have not “engaged” in most of the green activities the survey asked about, like for example composting (only 17 percent do), walking or biking to work (15 percent), or even getting a low flow shower head (17 percent).
And now for the good news: We’ve got incredible potential for energy and water savings, because we’re doing so little!
Here were the most popular green changes that emerged when 3,110 adults were asked what environmental activities they have done in the last year:
- Installed more energy-efficient light bulbs (63%)
- Purchased energy-efficient appliances (36%)
- Started paying bills online (46%)
- Switched to paperless financial statements (40%)
- Donated an electronic device for recycling (41%)
- Switched from bottled to tap water (29%)
- Installed a low-flow showerhead (17%) or a low-flow toilet (16%)
- Made home improvements (e.g., windows, solar panels or insulation) that provided government tax credits (14%)
- Bought a more fuel efficient car (13%)
In other encouraging findings, people reported that they:
- Always or often turn lights off when leaving a room (83%)
- Recycle (68%)
- Reuse things they have instead of replacing them (65%)
- Make an effort to use less water (60%).
But Harris Polls also found that many people are doing little or nothing to protect the environment and reduce their carbon footprint. Only small minorities of adults reported that they always or often:
- Walk or ride a bicycle instead of driving or using public transport (15%)
- Carpool or use public transport (16%)
- Make compost (17%)
- Purchase organic products (17%)
- Purchase all natural products (18%)
- Purchase used as opposed to new products (25%)
- Purchase locally manufactured products (26%)
In other findings, which could be viewed as positive or negative, depending on the standards, the poll found that less than half, but at least one-third of Americans queried:
- Buy food in bulk (33%)
- Purchase locally grown produce (39%)
- Unplug electrical appliances when they are not using them (40%).
The poll further found that most of these green actions were taken by people who identified themselves as somewhat green or most green. In other words, when those polled were broken into groups of “least green,” “not very green,” “somewhat green” and “most green” (based on their statements about protecting the environment) – a pattern emerged that showed the green groups were the ones installing energy efficient appliances, switching to tap water and buying organic products at much higher rates.
This seems like a tautology, but actually reveals philosophical split among Americans on green issues and suggests that there are those who do and those who don’t — as opposed to say, a vast middle where a mix of people take various green actions.
The skew between the two groups was fairly large. For example, 44 percent of those in the “most green” group “always or often” buy organic products, but only a minuscule 3 percent of the “least green” do.
Similarly, 65 percent of the “most green” adults “always or often” buy local produce, whereas only 20 percent of the least green do.
And only 15 percent of the least green segment have switched away from plastic bottled water.
Furthermore, the poll takers caution that some of the numbers may overestimate green behaviors because “there is a tendency for people to give ‘socially desirable’ answers…”
The Harris Poll was conducted online within the US between July 7 and September 8, 2009, using responses from adults (18 and up) with weighting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income, when necessary, to bring the sample into line with actual proportions in the population. See charts on the responses at the Harris website.
Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media