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Fewer Americans “Thinking Green”

April 18, 2012

NEW YORK, April 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Since the summer of 2009, the Harris Poll has been tracking Americans’ attitudes toward the environment as well as their engagement in various environmentally-friendly, or “green,” behaviors. The latest installment finds that many green behaviors, including those capable of saving consumers money, continue to decline. And perhaps more alarming, considerably fewer U.S. adults now express concern for, and awareness of, environmental issues.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,451 U.S. adults (ages 18 and over), surveyed online between March 12 and March 19, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

Since these questions were first asked in 2009 there has been a decline in some green behaviors. In 2012, U.S. adults are now less likely to do each of the following in their daily life:

  • Reuse things they have instead of throwing them away or buying new items (65% 2009 vs. 61% 2012);
  • Make an effort to use less water (60% 2009 vs. 57% 2010 and 2012);
  • Buy food in bulk (33% 2009 vs. 30% 2012);
  • Purchase all-natural products (18% 2009 vs. 16% 2012); and,
  • Purchase organic products (17% 2009 vs. 15% 2010 and 2012).

They are also less likely to espouse certain green attitudes – fewer Americans describe themselves as “environmentally-conscious” (27% 2012 vs. 30% 2009), or say they personally care a great deal about the current state, and future, of the environment (31% 2012 vs. 36% 2009 and 34% 2010).

Most significantly, in 2012, only about 1 in 3 U.S. adults (34%) say they are concerned about the planet we are leaving behind for future generations – an almost 10 percentage point decrease since 2009 (43%).

At the same time, however, a minority of Americans – more so than in 2009 – continue to describe themselves as:

  • Conservationist (20% 2012 and 2010 vs. 17% 2009);
  • “Green” (17% 2012 and 18% 2010 vs. 13% 2009); and,
  • Environmentalist (16% 2012 and 2010 vs. 13% 2009).

So What?
Over the past few years, more pressing issues such as health care reform, economic recovery, and the upcoming presidential election have eclipsed discussions about the environment, so perhaps it is not very surprising that these latest Harris Poll results continue to show a decline in “green” attitudes and behaviors. Unfortunately for consumers, some of the “green” behaviors they fail to adopt – such as buying food in bulk – could be saving them money, while others – such as recycling – could help us leave behind a cleaner, more sustainable future for our grandchildren. There may be a silver lining though, if the group of Americans who express the strongest commitment to the environment is a vocal and highly engaged minority.

                                                                                                                TABLE 1A
                                                                                                  FREQUENCY OF VARIOUS GREEN BEHAVIORS
                                                                                     "How often do you do each of the following in your daily life?"
                                                                                     ---------------------------------------------------------------
    Base: All adults
    ----------------
                                                     Always/                      Always                Often                    Sometimes                           Rarely/                     Rarely               Never
                                                   Often (NET)                                                                                                     Never (NET)
                                                   ----------                                                                                                      ----------
                     %                                  %                            %                    %                          %                                  %                          %
                    ---                                ---                          ---                  ---                        ---                                ---                        ---
    Keep unneeded lights off or turn
     lights off when leaving a room                                   81                      46                 35                                 13                                 6                    2                    4
    --------------------------------                                 ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Recycle                                                           68                      43                 25                                 17                                15                    8                    7
    -------                                                          ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Reuse things that I have instead
     of throwing them away or buying
     new items                                                        61                      23                 38                                 25                                14                    7                    6
    --------------------------------                                 ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Make an effort to use less water                                  57                      25                 32                                 28                                15                    8                    7
    --------------------------------                                 ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Unplug electrical appliances when
     I am not using them                                              43                      17                 26                                 27                                30                   16                   14
    ---------------------------------                                ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Purchase locally grown produce                                    36                       6                 30                                 43                                21                   12                    9
    ------------------------------                                   ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Buy food in bulk                                                  30                       8                 23                                 37                                32                   20                   12
    ----------------                                                 ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Purchase locally manufactured
     products                                                         24                       4                 20                                 48                                27                   18                    9
    -----------------------------                                    ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Purchase used items rather than
     new                                                              23                       5                 18                                 38                                39                   24                   14
    -------------------------------                                  ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Compost food and organic waste                                    18                       9                  9                                 15                                67                   16                   51
    ------------------------------                                   ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Carpool or take public
     transportation                                                   17                       6                 11                                 18                                65                   22                   44
    ----------------------                                           ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Purchase all-natural products                                     16                       4                 13                                 41                                43                   27                   15
    -----------------------------                                    ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Walk or ride a bike instead of
     driving or using public
     transportation                                                   16                       6                 10                                 21                                62                   25                   37
    ------------------------------                                   ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Purchase organic products                                         15                       3                 12                                 37                                48                   27                   21
    -------------------------                                        ---                     ---                ---                                ---                               ---                  ---                  ---
    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

                                              TABLE 1B
                                FREQUENCY OF VARIOUS GREEN BEHAVIORS
                   "How often do you do each of the following in your daily life?"
                             Summary of those saying "Always" or "Often"
                             -------------------------------------------
    Base: All adults
    ----------------
                                                    2009              2010                2012
                                              Total             Total              Total
                                              -----             -----              -----
                     %                          %                 %
                    ---                        ---               ---
    Keep unneeded lights off or turn
     lights off when leaving a room                   83                81                  81
    --------------------------------                 ---               ---                 ---
    Recycle                                           68                68                  68
    -------                                          ---               ---                 ---
    Reuse things that I have instead
     of throwing them away or buying
     new items                                        65                63                  61
    --------------------------------                 ---               ---                 ---
    Make an effort to use less water                  60                57                  57
    --------------------------------                 ---               ---                 ---
    Unplug electrical appliances when
     I am not using them                              40                39                  43
    ---------------------------------                ---               ---                 ---
    Purchase locally grown produce                    39                33                  36
    ------------------------------                   ---               ---                 ---
    Buy food in bulk                                  33                32                  30
    ----------------                                 ---               ---                 ---
    Purchase locally manufactured
     products                                         26                23                  24
    -----------------------------                    ---               ---                 ---
    Purchase used items rather than
     new                                              25                24                  23
    -------------------------------                  ---               ---                 ---
    Compost food and organic waste                    17                15                  18
    ------------------------------                   ---               ---                 ---
    Carpool or take public
     transportation                                   16                16                  17
    ----------------------                           ---               ---                 ---
    Purchase all-natural products                     18                16                  16
    -----------------------------                    ---               ---                 ---
    Walk or ride a bike instead of
     driving or using public
     transportation                                   15                15                  16
    ------------------------------                   ---               ---                 ---
    Purchase organic products                         17                15                  15
    -------------------------                        ---               ---                 ---
    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.
    ------------------------------------------------------

                                                                                                                        TABLE 2A
                                                                                                                  ENVIRONMENTAL LABELS
                                                                                     "To what extent, if any, does each of the following statements describe you?"
                                                                                     -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Base: All adults
    ----------------
                                                         Very well/                      Completely                 Very              Fairly                       Somewhat                          Somewhat                    Does not
                                                         Completely                                                 well               well                     well/Does not                          well                      describe
                                                            (NET)                                                                                                describe me                                                     me at all
                                                                                                                                                                      (NET)
                                                                                                                                               ---                                                                                            ---
                        %                                     %                               %                       %                  %                            %                                  %
                       ---                                   ---                             ---                     ---                ---                          ---                                ---
    I am concerned about the planet we are
     leaving behind for future generations.                                 34                            12                22                  27                                     39                            26                        13
    ---------------------------------------                                ---                           ---               ---                 ---                                    ---                           ---                       ---
    I personally care a great deal about the
     current state, and future, of the
     environment.                                                           31                            11                19                  29                                     40                            28                        12
    ----------------------------------------                               ---                           ---               ---                 ---                                    ---                           ---                       ---
    I feel a personal responsibility for
     taking care of the environment.                                        27                             9                18                  27                                     46                            30                        16
    ------------------------------------                                   ---                           ---               ---                 ---                                    ---                           ---                       ---
    I am environmentally-conscious.                                         27                             9                18                  33                                     40                            28                        12
    -------------------------------                                        ---                           ---               ---                 ---                                    ---                           ---                       ---
    I encourage others to be more
     environmentally-friendly.                                              24                             9                15                  28                                     48                            27                        21
    -----------------------------                                          ---                           ---               ---                 ---                                    ---                           ---                       ---
    I am a conservationist.                                                 20                             6                14                  24                                     56                            30                        25
    -----------------------                                                ---                           ---               ---                 ---                                    ---                           ---                       ---
    I am "green".                                                           17                             5                11                  25                                     59                            31                        27
    -------------                                                          ---                           ---               ---                 ---                                    ---                           ---                       ---
    I am an environmentalist.                                               16                             6                10                  21                                     63                            27                        36
    -------------------------                                              ---                           ---               ---                 ---                                    ---                           ---                       ---
    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.
    ------------------------------------------------------

                                                 TABLE 2B
                                           ENVIRONMENTAL LABELS
               "To what extent, if any, does each of the following statements describe you?"
                            Summary of those saying "Very well" or "Completely"
                            ---------------------------------------------------
    Base: All adults
    ----------------
                                                          2009              2010                2012
                                                    Total             Total              Total
                                                    -----             -----              -----
                        %                             %                 %
                       ---                           ---               ---
    I am concerned about the planet we are
     leaving behind for future generations.                 43                36                  34
    ---------------------------------------                ---               ---                 ---
    I personally care a great deal about the
     current state, and future, of the
     environment.                                           36                34                  31
    ----------------------------------------               ---               ---                 ---
    I feel a personal responsibility for
     taking care of the environment.                        29                29                  27
    ------------------------------------                   ---               ---                 ---
    I am environmentally-conscious.                         30                29                  27
    -------------------------------                        ---               ---                 ---
    I encourage others to be more
     environmentally-friendly.                              26                25                  24
    -----------------------------                          ---               ---                 ---
    I am a conservationist.                                 17                20                  20
    -----------------------                                ---               ---                 ---
    I am "green".                                           13                18                  17
    -------------                                          ---               ---                 ---
    I am an environmentalist.                               13                16                  16
    -------------------------                              ---               ---                 ---
    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.
    ------------------------------------------------------

Methodology
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 12 to 19, 2012 among 2,451 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J41436
Q960, Q980

The Harris Poll® #41, April 18, 2012
By Kathy Steinberg, Sr. Account Manager, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

Press Contacts:
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Harris Interactive
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press@harrisinteractive.net

SOURCE Harris Interactive


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