Greendex: Survey of Sustainable Consumption

National_geographic_logo_jpegNational Geographic just released the Greendex, a global tracking survey of consumers’ environmental behaviors.  The study of 14,000 consumers from 14 different countries measured typical behaviors related to energy use, transportation, product choices and attitudes.  Because the Greendex will continue to be tracked over time, it will be a significant measure of green consumer behavior in the United States and worldwide.

After the jump, the summary of results.  For more, click here.

Overall Results

Unlike other measures that rank
countries according to the environmental performance of their
governments, companies and other factors, the Greendex is the first to
rank the performance of individual consumers, rather than countries as
a whole.

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 these factors, with 60
percent of the 65-variable index based on choice or discretionary

The findings show that consumers in Brazil and India tie for the
highest Greendex score for environmentally sustainable consumption at
60 points each. 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. U.S. 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.

There are signs that
index rankings are set to change as people in developing countries
become more economically successful and adopt more consumptive
behaviors. Findings show 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.

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 behavior 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

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

  • 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.
  • U.S.
    consumers scored worse than those in any other country, developing or
    developed, 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.

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