09 May 2008

What's your Greendex score?

US citizens score worst in National Geographic's new green consumer survey.

People in the developing world have beaten those in the developed world hands down in a new international consumer survey aimed at tracking "green" behaviour.

"Greendex™ 2008: Consumer Choice and the Environment — A Worldwide Tracking Survey", conducted by The National Geographic Society and international polling firm GlobeScan, looked at environmentally sustainable consumption and behaviour among consumers in 14 countries.

You can find out where you rank on the Greendex scale by visiting and taking an abbreviated survey.

Rankings by country
The findings show that consumers in Brazil and India tie for the highest Greendex score for environmentally sustainable consumption at 60 points each (on a scale from one to 100, where higher scores indicate "greener" behaviour). They are followed by consumers in China (56.1), Mexico (54.3), Hungary (53.2) and Russia (52.4).

Among consumers in wealthy countries, those in Great Britain, Germany and Australia each have a Greendex score of 50.2, those in Spain register a score of 50.0 and Japanese respondents, 49.1. US consumers have the lowest Greendex score at 44.9. The other lowest-scoring consumers are Canadians with 48.5 and the French with 48.7.

South Africa was not included in the survey.

There are signs that index rankings are set to change as people in developing countries become more economically successful and adopt more consumptive behaviours. Findings suggest that consumers in countries with emerging economies aspire to higher material standards of living and believe people in all countries should have the same living standards as those in the wealthiest countries.

Developing countries more concerned
While the survey found encouraging signs that individuals in all the surveyed countries feel empowered when it comes to the environment and are taking some action in their daily lives to reduce consumption and waste, it found that those in developing countries are the most concerned and that the behaviour and personal choices of consumers in developing countries were more environmentally friendly than those in developed countries.

Consumers in developing countries feel more responsible for environmental problems than those in developed countries, and six in 10 people in developing countries report that environmental problems are negatively affecting their health — twice as many as in most developed countries.

Moreover, consumers in developing countries feel strongest that global warming will worsen their way of life in their lifetime, are the most engaged when it comes to talking and listening about the environment, feel the most guilt about their environmental impact and are willing to do the most to minimize that impact. Their behaviour reflects their concern.

People in developing countries are more likely to:

  • Live in smaller residences
  • Prefer green products and own relatively few appliances or expensive electronic devices
  • Walk, cycle, or use public transportation, and choose to live close to their most common destination.

By contrast, consumers in developed countries, who have more environmentally friendly options to choose from, often don’t make those choices.

  • They have larger homes and are more likely to have air-conditioning.
  • They generally own more cars, drive alone most frequently and use public transport infrequently.
  • They are least likely to buy environmentally friendly products and to avoid environmentally unfriendly products.

US consumers scored worse than those in any other country on housing, transportation and goods. They are by far the least likely to use public transportation, to walk or bike to their destinations or to eat locally grown foods. They have among the largest average residence size in the survey. Only 15 percent say they minimize their use of fresh water.

How the survey was done
The Greendex survey was conducted online earlier this year among 14 000 consumers in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Spain and the United States.

A panel of 27 international experts in global sustainability helped identify which consumer behaviours were most crucial to investigate.

One thousand people in each country answered questions that measured their behaviour in the areas of housing, transportation, food and consumption of goods; each respondent earned a score that reflected the environmental impact of his or her consumption patterns, which included size and energy-efficiency of residence, commuting mode and distance and use of fresh water, among dozens of other measures.

Consumers were then assigned a Greendex score (a measure of the relative environmental sustainability of their consumption patterns) out of 100.

Determining consumption
Consumption as measured by the Greendex is determined both by the choices consumers actively make — such as repairing rather than replacing items, using cold water to wash laundry, choosing green products rather than environmentally unfriendly ones — and choices that are controlled more by their circumstances — such as the climate they live in or the availability of green products or public transport.

The initiative considered both of these factors, with 60 percent of the 65-variable index based on choice or discretionary behaviour.

"The Greendex shows us that consumers’ choices play a large role in their environmental footprint. Governments and businesses, therefore, have a responsibility to ensure that environmentally friendly options are available and affordable to all consumers, especially those in the developing countries, whose index rankings may fall as economies grow and consumption patterns change," said Thomas Lovejoy, president of the Heinz Centre for Science, Economics and the Environment, chairman of National Geographic’s Conservation Trust and an adviser to the Greendex project. – (EurekAlert)

Read more:
Enviro health Centre
10 steps to sustainable living

May, 2008


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