May 13, 2009

Survey: N. America hurts environment most

Canadians rank almost at the bottom -- just above Americans, who are the worst -- in hurting the environment, a National Geographic Society survey says.

By contrast, Brazilians and Indians tied as most green, the society's annual Greendex tracking survey said.

The survey, conducted by Canadian research company GlobeScan International, examined consumer behaviors in 14 countries that represent more than half of the world's population and use about 75 percent of its energy. The examined behaviors involved housing, transportation, food and consumer goods.

Brazil and India each scored 60 out of 100 on a sustainable-consumption scale, the survey indicated.

Other scores included China (56.1), Mexico (54.3), Hungary (53.2), Russia (52.4), Great Britain, Germany and Australia (each at 50.2), Spain (50), Japan (49.1), France (48.7), Canada (48.5) and the United States (44.9).

Housing factors included dwelling size; energy use for heating, cooling, and appliances, and water needs.

Transportation behaviors included motorized-vehicle ownership rates and average use of cars, daily commute length and public-transit use.

The foods category polled consumers on their consumption of locally produced foods, as well as their relative consumption of bottled water, meat and seafood -- products that typically have high environmental impact.

The goods category looked at items people typically buy, reuse and discard -- both day-to-day purchases and larger items such as televisions. Consumer preference for environmentally friendly products and packaging, as well as overall personal-consumption levels, were also considered.

The online survey of 1,000 adults in each of 17 countries was conducted Jan. 21 to March 5. The data for each country were weighted according to the latest census figures to reflect each country's demographic profile. The margin of sampling error per country is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, so differences of less than that amount are statistically insignificant.