US Consumers Rank Last for Sustainable Behavior, National Geographic Says

by | Jul 13, 2012

Americans rank last compared to the rest of the world in sustainable behavior – as they have every year – and don’t feel guilty about this, according to a National Geographic survey.

The annual Greendex report, conducted by the National Geographic Society and research consultancy GlobeScan since 2008, found only 21 percent of American say they experience “green guilt” about their environmental impact, while 47 percent say they have faith in the individual’s ability to protect the environment.

On the other hand, Indians, Chinese and Brazilians, who have the highest Greendex rankings, say they suffer from the most guilt about their behaviors’ impact on the environment, and have the least confidence that their actions can help improve it.

India scored an overall ranking of 58.9; China earned 57.8 and Brazil, 55.5. The US, at the bottom of the list, scored 44.7.

Researchers asked 17,000 consumers in 17 countries questions, via an online survey, about housing, transportation, food and consumer goods.

Some 31 percent of Americans surveyed said they prefer to buy “used” or “pre-owned” products, instead of buying new ones.

Over two-thirds (69 percent) of Americans say they recycle, although Canadians, British, German and Australian consumers still perform better that the US in that category, with at least 80 percent saying they recycle “all of the time” or “often.”

South Korea ranked last in this category: only 29 percent there recycle, according to the report.

Western Europeans and Canadians are the most likely to recycle electronic items with Germans recycling these items the most.

However, many consumers say the higher price of environmentally friendly products isn’t worth it. The majority of Russians strongly agree (26 percent) or agree (23 percent) with this statement, as do 35 percent of Brazilians and 29 percent of Americans. Twenty-three percent of US respondents say they disagree.

A Harris Interactive survey conducted in May found that 69 percent of American adults purchase green products or services, slightly less than previous years, and nearly one third believe such products are the norm and a required expectation.

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