By Larry Dignan
Posting in Energy
Fewer Americans are integrating green behavior such as water conservation, composting, recycling electronics and buying more fuel efficient cars into their daily routines, according to a Harris Interactive.
Fewer Americans are integrating green behavior such as water conservation, composting, recycling electronics and buying more fuel efficient cars into their daily routines, according to a Harris Interactive.
Harris conducted a poll of 2,352 U.S. adults Nov. 8 to Nov. 15 and found:
- 57 percent of Americans are trying to use less water, down from 60 percent in 2009.
- 15 percent of Americans are buying organic products, down from 17 percent a year ago.
- 30 percent are buying Energy Star appliances, down from 36 percent a year ago.
- 32 percent are donating or recycling electronics, down from 41 percent a year ago.
- 20 percent are installing a low-flow showerhead or toilet, down from 25 percent a year ago.
- 8 percent are buying a hybrid or more fuel efficient car, down from 13 percent in 2009.
With those results, it's worth pondering a few reasons why there's a drop-off. Here are a few theories worth pondering:
- Greenwashing. Is there a product that isn't green these days. When every manufacturer or service provider is pitching green as a marketing pitch, Americans tune out. Simply put, it's green overload.
- Return on being green. Money is tight and some green behaviors---notably purchasing organic products---are more expensive.
- The global warming research flap. We're not going to get into the merits of the science behind global warming, but there has been enough controversy to make folks tune out.
- We're already green. One key item in the Harris Poll is that 20 percent of U.S. adults now see themselves as conservationists, up from 17 percent in 2009. Eighteen percent of Americans consider themselves green, up from 13 percent a year ago.
Here's a deeper dive on some of the responses.
Jan 9, 2011
...is the individual's interest in being "green" when it actually implies some behavioral change on their part. Although I've been to some dirt poor places, I've never been to Bangladesh, and I don't know much about how the average resident is adapting a "greener" lifestyle. But I seriously doubt that someone who is truly impoverished to that degree gives a damn. When you are literally starving, you don't give a damn about CO2. Do you seriously suggest that there are NGO guys walking around telling those people, "Gee, we'd like you to have a better standard of living, but since it would be bad for the planet, you can't."? I've yet to meet anyone who talks of "Eco Justice" who's literally facing starvation.
John, If I lived in the Maldive Islands, you bet I'd be pushing to get those carbon-intensive lifestyle folks to come to my island, partly to see the impact their lifestyle is having on my home so that maybe they will go home and change their ways, and also to show them that a green way of living can be both less carbon intensive and a very pleasant way to live indeed. I noticed that you didn't mention Bangladesh in your tourism example, which is pushing hard for greener lifestyles as well. Also, when I talk about the Eco Justice movement I'm not talking about industrial trash littering the streets, I'm talking about the most polluting industries being located in the poorest neighborhoods, a product of the political power of more affluent neighborhoods keeping the nasty smells, pollution and consquences out of their neighborhoods (remember NIMBY?). The green movement in these neighborhoods comes not from trendy lifestyle decisions but out of survival choices. To a varying degree, this is where we are all at ultimately, even if our relative affluence can oftentimes keep the issues at arm's length.
-any island nation such as the Maldive Islands, Polynesian countries, Bangladesh, etc. who are threatened to be engulfed by rising ocean levels associated with increasing global temps. Look to their countries for developing cutting edge ways to live "green," since for them, it's a matter of survival. The governments of these places might be interested, but only to the extent that they believe that they might be able to extort money from the affluent countries to mitigate what they argue are the effects of AWG. But consider this; the industry most responsible for imported wealth in the Maldives and Polynesian countries is tourism, which is (as I'm frequently reminded here at SmartPlanet) the most carbon-intensive industry on the planet. Clearly, these places have put a higher value on their own economies than they have the health of the planet. As for poor neighborhoods, most of the debris you see on the streets is not the product of industrial dumping, but of the local inhabitants. Big industry has better things to do that distribute fast food debris, cigarette butts, and graffiti everywhere. Riverat1, I've never argued against moving toward "sustainable practices". In fact, I frequently argue the contrary. What I argue against are misguided attempts at mitigation which are less driven by science than they are by political or narrow economic interests. To me, there's little difference from a mindless corporation representing millions of people dumping tons of waste into the environment, or a single slob throwing his McDonalds lunch debris out the window.
John, (#20) Of course poor and subsistence societies in general have far less effect on the environment than affluent societies and often the big effects they do have are a result of serving the affluent societies. The economy is a subset of the natural systems of the Earth. Destroying them will ultimately destroy our economy so it behooves us to move toward sustainable practices.
John, you said: "A society's desire to be "green" is proportional to its affluence." I can think of many, many exceptions to your generalization, including: -any island nation such as the Maldive Islands, Polynesian countries, Bangladesh, etc. who are threatened to be engulfed by rising ocean levels associated with increasing global temps. Look to their countries for developing cutting edge ways to live "green," since for them, it's a matter of survival. -Other countries such as Bolivia, sub-Saharan countries whose climate are on the edge of major change and will be devastated by issues such as desertification, water shortages, loss of habitat, etc. Once again, doing more with less is a major theme backed by government policies, local innovation and market focus. -Poor neighborhoods who have been negatively affected by the presence of polluting industries/dumps located in their neighborhoods. The whole Eco-Justice movement has sprung up to protest the high price poorer folks have had to pay for these practices, and there is a substantial movement toward implementing greener lifestyles in these neighborhoods as part of that effort. -Closely related are the No Coal activists, who are a combination of folks who live with the daily pollution of existing power plants, combined with climate activists who don't want any new carbon-spewing coal fired plants built. They've been extremely effective at preventing any new coal fired plants from being built in the past two years, while hundreds have been taken off the drawing board. So when you see this larger context, which cuts across socioeconomic and political boundaries, you begin to get the sense that "green" is not merely an inconvenient, slightly more expensive lifestyle; its a conscious choice to create a more sustainable, equitable way to live on this planet.
...is what we were paying for gas 25 years ago on an inflation adjusted basis, and the rise in the cost of oil & gas compared against the Euro before the '08 crash. $3/gallon gas is not more than we were paying inflation-adjusted post-'70s. Inflation, regardless of what the fed sez has been moving up for the last 2 years. Remember, they use the crash in housing prices to calculate inflation, this keeping it low. Without housing included, inflation has been far more than 2%. Most of the gains in the stock market are, in fact, inflation. As soon as the economy picks up at all, expect to see the real effects of "stimulus" and QE2 in terms of inflation, especially in oil.
Ummmm... Gas is about 3.15 here. It will reach $5.00. If you blame it all on dollar valuation, are you expecting the Dollar to lose 58% of it's value in the next 6 months? That'll make it worth, what, .32 euros or 35 yen? Wow, we are so totally buggered. No, it's two factors: 1) Greed by the oil companies. Why move to lower profits if they don't have to, even if it crushes whole economies? They got their piece of the pie, bugger the rest of us. 2) demand from China and India. They're using the trillions they make from us to subsidize oil prices in their countries so their people don't feel the squeeze like we do. Because of this, their automobile counts are rising at a rate even the Americans could never hope to match. ------------------ Research on green tech: If Edison suddenly decided that "no, we spent enough on this crappy light bulb thing and we'll never make a filament work, let's just scrap it" we'd be reading by candle. Haven't we spent enough is the lamest argument because we never KNOW until we tinker what's possible. Until recently they never believed that LEDs could be bright enough to be anything other than basic indicator lights. Now, we have LED street lighting. I suppose we should have stopped there too, huh?
A society's desire to be "green" is proportional to its affluence. Modern societies only became interested in their effect on the environment once they became affluent. Poor or subsistence societies don't care at all about the "environment" because they cannot afford to; all of their resources are devoted to survival. So at a time of economic uncertainty when many don't have jobs and many more worry that soon they may not either, it's not a surprise that people are less interested in their "greenness". And this is why the progressive eco/economic agenda will ultimately prove destructive for the environment. "Poor" people couldn't care less about their effect on the environment, and the progressive eco/economic agenda ultimately will make more people poor.
Solar cycles correspond quite well with Earthly temperatures up until the middle of the 20th Century. Then they don't. $5/gallon gas has more to do with peak oil and demand outstripping supply than it does with global warming. The two things just happen to be occurring at the same time which causes confusion amongst the uninformed.
Neither wind nor solar are viable large-scale technologies. Solar cycles explain the climate warming; the data for the curves have been cooked. But you are a devotee of the Church of Global Warming, and don't want to hear otherwise. Have a nice day, and enjoy the $5/gallon gas!
Please direct me to a reference where any climate scientist said cold winters are an indication of global warming. The Little Ice Age was mostly a result of low solar activity helped by some large volcanic eruptions (Krakatoa among others). Look up the Maunder Minimum and the Dalton Minimum and the solar cycle in general. That low solar activity ended in the first half of the 20th Century and solar activity since the 1950's has been high and pretty stable*. Despite relatively stable solar activity for the last 50 years the temperature on the Earth has continued to rise. *The most recent solar cycle low has broken that stability by remaining at an extremely low level far longer than is normal. It is possible we are going into another Manuder Minimum but we'll have to wait an see what happens. What is this failure you talk of. Both wind power and solar photovoltaic are proven technologies. Research has been bringing the cost down on both and economies of scale will help as well.
do you thing we need to spend? The "ratio" isn't the issue. When have we spent enough to show failure of proof of concept, or technology?
Yes, they are saying that cold winters are an indication of global warming. Look it up! We are also coming out of a little Ice Age from the 1800s. Try doing some research looking at reputable sites that don't say what you want to believe. How many more BILLIONS OF DOLLARS
slccom, No one (at least no one who is informed) is saying that cold winters are an indication of global warming. They are just saying that they are not an indication against global warming. Big difference there. Yes, climate always is changing but there are things that drive that change. The biggest reason in the past 30 years are the increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere which is primarily a result of human burning of fossil fuels. Government subsidies for fossil fuels outpace subsidies for alternative energy by more than 10 to 1. I wonder where alternative energy would be if there were no subsidies for either.
That reminds me< Mr. Boardman. We have thrown billions of dollars at solar energy, and other "alternative energy sources" since the 1970s. One would think that by now, if any of these alternatives were in fact viable long-term and large-scale solutions, they would have been proven and implemented by now.
More and more of us are also tired of being considered vermin on the face of Gaia. I don't see myself that way, and it is quite clearly unlikely that "global climate change" is anything under our control. If you can show me a single decade in the past where the "global climate" didn't "change," I'll eat my hat. Trying to claim that unusually cold winters are an indication of "global warming" is something that no thinking person with any science background is going to buy, either. When the "greens" have no solution for any problem, just complaints about all the available options, they also lose all credibility. Forget "greenwashing" fatigue. Many of us are just sick of having our money wasted by the "green" movement.
@Bruce in San Jose: No, the EA E Mails showed nothing of the kind. They did show far too much eagerness to push their point of view, which is reprehensible in any scientific organisation, but that does not invalidate what they were saying. Even if it did, there are so many other organisations saying that climate change (NOT global warming) is happening that it wouldn't really matter if EA had gone off the rails. Taken as a whole, the evidence is pretty conclusive. When did CO2 "absurdly" get its "classification as a pollutant", and by whom? As far as "viable alternatives" are concerned, there never will be any if we don't push to research them - and there are alternatives right now, although I grant you that at present they are not truly viable. In time, with further research and increasing costs of dwindling oil and coal, they will become economic. I entirely agree with you about the light hazard - never could figure out how they balanced that one out between being green and causing an additional hazard!
None of us are in favor of pollution, contrary to the cries of the enviro-extremists. But, it has become obvious that no matter how much we clean up our environment, we are then saddled with a new tighter standard. Even the slowest among us are beginning to see that the these ever tightening standards are intended to control with little or nothing to do with actually "improving" anything. "Carbon Credits" have become the currency of the Al Gore's and the George Soro's in the world. One can pollute all you want, if you just pay for it. The only limits are money. With the disclosure of the East Anglia emails showing the world that global warming is a hoax; the absurd classification of CO2 as a pollutant; the stated intent to bankrupt coal, and apparently oil, even though we are absolutely dependent with NO viable alternative, people are getting fed up. When we are told that crisis must be used to make changes that one cannot get away with normally, we see we are being manipulated, not "saved." We are told to remove mercury thermometers and long tube florescent lights, but are REQUIRED to install curly bulbs that if dropped in your house, the EPA says the incident SHOULD trigger a hazmat response, we KNOW we are just being manipulated!
TAphilo points up part fo the reason - percentages of actually doing things may be down because those committed to Green measures have already done them. I know that's true for me and now I am looking for further out or further off measures that won't show up on a pop consumer quiz. Green wash is a real danger tho and claims need to be examined, tightened up on. Also technical savvy to see the true picture is sadly lacking in most sectors of both the commercial and consumer worlds. We've been waiting for utility de-regulation to allow prices to go higher and prove than investment in Green measures can in many cases pay off. Slight pause there as prices are not yet rising much - but will in the future I am sure. The it may be like the Harvard dean's well known quote about eduction - "if you think Green measures are expensive, just try business as usual"
I'm afraid the 'sboverie' is right. The 'green' part is costing more. More of my green. Hooray, for the bandwagon! As for green in business, we replaced the overhead MERCURY flood lights with the new, green, efficient, fluorescents. Good green move for the company, right? Then they sold the MERCURY one's to another warehouse being built.(Not their's). YAY! for the green in their pockets. As long as the greenbacks are coming, green is BS to most.
One of the problems is that many businesses get on the green bandwagon but are not actually any greener than they were before. Organic foods can be better than factory farmed food but tend to cost more. Hybrids can be fuel efficient but the cost of the vehicle is a hurdle for most. The best incentives for going green would be those items that are a better value for the individual and either last longer or cost less than the same non green items. Going green by spending more money tends to discourage people rather than motivate them.
Just like in the 70's it's just cool to be cheap not cool to be green. We need to all stand up to the corp leaders and demand fewer chemicals, less damage to the environment, more natural ingredients and more friendly packaging. We can stand together. Water (1/3 is for showers) why can't we reuse this same water to flush and wash clothes. It would not take a big push to fix this issue. Low flow everything including watering plants, we grow way too much grass and very few fruits and nuts, we never manage growth in responsible ways. Energy Star should be half the price and have an annual tax credit. Houses should all have solar water and geo-therm or wind mills depending on local weather. Smart light bulbs are a scam full of mercury and they emit radiation, as does your phone and microwave, Cancer is number two killer in America do you know why? We all need less meat and all fast food should be required to offer organic, maybe they can only sell 50% animal products. Quit offering soda and fries to our kids they really don't need more empty calories. We need to drop our wasteful healthcare practices and the tons of medical waste that is produced, Eating and living healthier would drop these numbers and fix both the cost and availability. We are becoming less educated and more reliant on mass produced food this is our fault and we are paying the price.
Some green products don't work well, such as fluorecent lights. I had to remove the energysaving fluorescent lights I had put in the stairwell and front porch because it was too dangerous to have lights that did not come on instantly. Some take several minutes to get bright enough to do anygood. Some fixtures were installed in my house by the builder that I cannot change, (an energy saving requirement) so I have to take a shower in very dim light. That is getting dangerous now, because I can hardly see to get in and out of the tub/shower and as I am getting older, my eyesight is not as good. Unfortunately, I cannot replace those lights with regular bulbs. I had trouble finding the regular incandescent flood lights for my stairwell and front portch, but I finally did. I will have to stock up, because I hear they are going to be discontinued in the future. What can we do to be safe then?
When the profit margin is no longer the major reason to sell "green" items, then more people will use them. There are just too many people that cannot afford the higher costs asked of the items currently marketed. A case in point is the hybrid car. When I can buy a gas powered vehicle and run it for five years and still be under the cost of hybrid purchase then you may easily guess which will be more often purchased (I used five dollar a gallon gas price for calcs).
Statistical Danger! 100 people - 25% went out and installed the low flow shower heads two years ago. That means 75 people still have not. Survey goes out and finds only 20% are installing the water heads - 20 people - but since they polled 100 people - and 25 had ALREADY installed them that means 45% WILL have at the end of the period. Next year they will poll and find out 10% of people plan to do that - well duh! 45 out of the 100 already HAS. Survey did not ask ALL the right questions to get the full picture. Can you say: 42.
People don't like being told what they "have" to do or what they "need" to do by someone else, even (or especially) by the government. Saving water and electricity are good ideas, and they save money on one's utility bills. Still, there are diminishing returns, and savings can get a little too OC sometimes. When you conisder "balance", green at all costs may not be the best beahvior, especially when what some call "green" may not be the most wise choice in all cases. More and more people can't install low-flow showerheads every year, simply due to market saturation. I bought one years ago, and I didn't buy one last year or the year before because the one I have still works. Oraganic products often cost more, and in tough times, so it may not be surprising that fewer people are buying them, if it's really true that fewer people are buying them... a value of 15% and a value of 17% may be statistically the same, due to poll tolerances and "margins of error", a term that Harris doesn't use.
2,352 people is an incredibly small pool of people to assume how over 300,000,000 people are behaving. I think this survey is bunk.