Americans consider the environment in what they buy, survey shows

Americans consider the environment in what they buy, survey shows
Will people buy electric cars, such as the Tesla, on the theory that they’d be better for the environment? Maybe, maybe not -- but a survey says more than half of Americans do consider the environment when making consumer purchases.
(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- More than half of Americans consider the effects on the environment of products and services they buy, according to a new national survey.

“Consumer behavior has become an important way Americans express their values and concerns, leading to new products and services, creating and destroying markets, and influencing the policies and actions of companies large and small,” according to the report, Americans’ Actions to Limit Global Warming April 2013, by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center on Climate Change Communication.


The survey of more than 1,000 adults found that 52% said they “very consistently,” “often,” or “occasionally” weigh the environmental impact of their purchases. More and more companies are paying attention and reacting to these kinds of considerations among consumers by establishing better environmental practices, said Anne Kelly, director of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, a project of the corporate sustainability coalition, Ceres.

The survey also found that large majorities of Americans said that the next time they made a big purchase, like a major appliance or car, they planned to buy an energy-efficient one. Six in 10 said the next time they buy a car, they would want it to average 30 miles or more per gallon.


“Many Americans care about the environmental impact of their purchases and have already purchased an energy-efficient appliance or fuel-efficient car,” said lead report author Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University. “There is a strong market for products that save energy.”

Some Americans support companies with a particular environmental stance, and boycott others. About three in 10 Americans, or 28%, say that, in the past 12 months, “they have rewarded companies taking steps to reduce global warming by buying their products.” At the same time, one in five respondents said that have punished companies opposing efforts to reduce global warming by not purchasing their goods or services.

“People aren’t just speaking with their pocketbooks,” said report co-author Dr. Ed Maibach of George Mason University. “Many are also talking to their friends and family about companies they feel have poor environmental records.”

Nearly 40% of respondents said “they would be willing to join a campaign to convince elected officials to do ‘the right thing’ about global warming.”


But so far, most Americans have refrained from political activism on the environment, the survey found.

“Over the past 12 months, five to 10 percent of Americans have ‘often’ or ‘occasionally’ signed a petition about global warming (10%); shared information about global warming on Facebook or Twitter (7%); donated money to an organization working on global warming (7%); donated money to a political candidate because they share your views on global warming (6%),” according to the survey.

One in four people, though, have discussed companies’ environmental practices with friends and family.

The joint research project between Yale and George Mason regularly surveys public perceptions of and behavior regarding climate change and the risks it creates.


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