New Harris Poll Shows Americans Want to Go Green, but Don't Always Know How

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Survey Finds Uncertainty, Other Challenges to Living Sustainably

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In the case of compact fluorescent light bulbs, you're paying more on the front end, but the cost savings in the long run will beat out the incandescent bulbs, hands down.

Nearly half of all Americans are recycling, but only 3 percent are changing out their incandescent light bulbs for more efficient compact fluorescent models, according to a new Harris Poll released today.

"This poll shows that green living is certainly at the forefront of our minds," said Stephanie Meeks, acting president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, which advised Harris Interactive on the development of this latest Harris Poll. "Yet people are getting lost in the maze of information on how to lessen our environmental impact. The bottom line is that even the smallest lifestyle change can have significant impact in the long-run."

The Harris Poll, one of the most highly regarded public opinion surveys, reached out to The Nature Conservancy for input and guidance on the development of the poll's survey questions. Harris Interactive sought the advice of the Conservancy because of the organization's leadership on educating the general public about ways to live a greener life for the benefit of both people and nature. The Nature Conservancy also offers a carbon calculator to help individuals determine their "carbon footprint," which can be calculated at http://www.nature.org/calculator.

Among the findings of this poll was the noticeable optimism of the American public on environmental issues. Seventy-two percent of the poll's 2,605 respondents believe their personal actions are significant to the health of the environment. Though only 42 percent of U.S. adults were initially familiar with the phrase "environmental sustainability," when provided a definition, two-thirds believe that it will be possible in the future to live in an environmentally sustainable way.

Interestingly, over 45 percent of 18-43 year olds understand the meaning of this term, as compared with only 30 percent of those aged 63 and older.

"At a time when Americans are being bombarded with environmental messages, we encouraged Harris to gauge what terms are resonating with the general public," said Valerie Dorian, Director of Brand Marketing at The Nature Conservancy. "What's most telling from this survey is that despite the plethora of green information out there, there are still many challenges to actually implement change in our own lives."

Although 53 percent of those surveyed said they have taken steps to green their life, specific actions varied greatly:

  •     91 percent of respondents are recycling
  •     73 percent are paying bills online
  •     49 percent are trying to buy locally-produced food and/or goods
  •     47 percent are buying green household products
  •     39 percent are bringing their own reusable bags to stores instead of using paper or plastic
  •     16 percent are carpooling
  •     5 percent are driving less by combining errands, walking more, etc.
  •     4 percent have reduced their utility use
  •     3 percent have purchased hybrid cars
  •     3 percent have changed out incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent ones

As these results indicate, being an environmentalist today calls for a whole new level of greener thinking -- from what you choose at the grocery store to how you commute to work every day. In fact, 34 percent of those who hadn't changed their lifestyle said it was because they "did not know what to do," and 29 percent of these people who hadn't made a change believe that greening their lifestyle won't make any significant difference on the environment. Yet according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, if every American home switched out just one incandescent light bulb for a compact fluorescent one, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for an entire year.

"Making small changes to help save the planet can help your pocketbook as well," added Meeks. "In the case of compact fluorescent light bulbs, you're paying more on the front end, but the cost savings in the long run will beat out the incandescent bulbs, hands down."

At the same time, going green can help to prevent environmental damages. For example, a recent Nature Conservancy and Harvard University study examined the effect of staggering urban growth on nature and people, and found that if we don't reduce our urban footprint, we may lose some animals, plants and natural resources for good.

To help cut through all the noise, The Nature Conservancy staff and leading environment bloggers are offering simple tips on ways to make personal, science-based choices to help save the planet. Check out http://www.nature.org/activities/everydayenv.html to see the list of innovative and easy changes you can make.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at http://www.nature.org.

Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a long and rich history in multimodal research, powered by our science and technology, we assist clients in achieving business results. Harris Interactive serves clients globally through our North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms. For more information on Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll, please visit http://www.harrisinteractive.com.

Contact
Cristina Mestre, 703.841.8779, cmestre @ tnc.org

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