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Earth Day and the Polling of America
Sarah Kuck, 23 Apr 08

Taking one step back to size up American opinions surrounding sustainability, Worldchanging correspondent Joel Makower has once again collected a number of "green" polls concerning the subject, which came out just in time for Earth Day.

While looking through a variety of polls ranging from "substantive to silly to self-serving," Makower found that although the "public wants to buy green products and support good companies," they often don't know how they should define "green" and "good." What's more is that they are willing to let corporations do the defining for them:

Almost four in 10 Americans are preferentially buying products they believe to be environmentally friendly, though almost half (48 percent) erroneously believes such products are beneficial for the planet, as opposed to simply being less harmful, according to the 2008 Green Gap Survey from Cone LLC and the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. It also found that Americans are pretty open to companies' green messages: 47 percent trust companies to tell them the truth in environmental messaging; 45 percent believe companies are accurately communicating information about their impact on the environment; and 61 percent say they understand the environmental terms companies use in their advertising.

Last year, Joel wrote that "an ABC news poll found most Americans consider global warming the world's biggest environmental problem and that an whopping 94 percent say they are willing to make personal changes to help the environment."

This year, he found polls showing that "around 40 percent (of respondents) were willing to 'do what it takes' to protect and improve the environment."

But what does that mean? He also found results showing that "more than half" said that they always recycle at home and that "almost two thirds" said they were interested in l"earning more about simple ways to save energy...Only 3 percent of consumers said they 'always' buy green products, while 66 percent that said they "sometimes" purchase them."

Some of the results made me question how honest we truly are not only when we take surveys, but also with ourselves. Makower too was skeptical:

"Are consumers really making "major changes" in their lifestyles and purchases, as Gallup reports? Are individuals' carbon footprint numbers on their way to becoming as ubiquitous as cholesterol numbers, as Harris suggests? Are we making more environmentally conscious purchase decisions, as Cone and others report? Will four in ten consumers really "do what it takes" to solve our environmental problems, as Jones Lang LaSalle found?

Now that we've taken a step back to look at the opinions, and sized up the debate as a whole, how will we use this information? How can we use it to take on new challenges? Can we ask ourselves how truly willing we are to create a bright green economy?


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