“Americans are the least likely to suffer from ‘green guilt’ about their environmental impact, despite trailing the rest of the world in sustainable behavior,” concludes a National Geographic survey published yesterday.
“This year Americans ranked last in sustainable behavior, as they have every year since 2008. Just 21 percent of Americans reported feeling guilty about the impact they have on the environment, among the lowest of those surveyed . . . One common trend revealed by the survey is that many consumers find it difficult to justify the price premium often associated with environmentally friendly products. Russians, Brazilians, Americans, and Indians were the most likely to respond that the extra cost does not justify the value.”
I thought one of the more fascinating observations on the survey was put forth by Nicole Darnall, a researcher at the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University (ASU). She commented that, “In order to feel guilty, you have to accept that some sort of problem exists . . . These are countries in which there’s still a lot of political debate about whether certain problems—such as climate change—exist or not.”
Not as surprising was the finding that people claimed to be greener than they really are. I wondered about this as I came across the results of an earlier Harris Poll survey. The Nature Conservancy summarized those findings noting that more than 90 percent of Americans are recycling and that 53 percent had taken steps to green their lives.
Americans use an average of 23.6 rolls per person each year—about three times more per person than the average European.
But the survey “also found a substantial lack of knowledge about how to go green—and skepticism about whether greening one’s life makes a difference to the environment: 34 percent of those surveyed said they hadn’t changed their lifestyle because they did not know what to do,’’ while “29 percent of respondents believe that greening their lifestyle won’t make any significant difference on the environment.”
So it’s not surprising that just yesterday The New York Times reported, “The United States placed ninth in a new energy-efficiency ranking of 12 of the world’s largest economies. The country has made ‘limited or little progress toward greater efficiency at the national level,’ said the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.”
Maybe those people surveyed in the Harris Poll who were skeptical about whether or not their efforts could make a difference should start small. In May, Living Green Magazine said, “Toilet paper has recently become a hot topic for environmentalists who claim that the manufacturing of ‘TP’ creates more damage than gas-guzzling cars.” The magazine went on to note that the toilet paper industry, “is the third greatest industrial emitter of global warming pollution in industrialized countries (after the chemical and steel industries). Its CO2 emissions are projected to double by 2020.”
Since Americans use an average of 23.6 rolls per person each year—about three times more per person than the average European—we’re flushing a lot of potentially positive environmental impact right down the toilet.
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Lawrence Karol is a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City in a mid-century-modern-inspired apartment with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet editor, who enjoys writing about design, food, and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence