Three in five Americans say they will make a New Year's resolution to live a more environmentally responsible lifestyle in 2015, according to a nationwide public opinion poll released this week by advocacy marketing consultancy Tiller, LLC.
The survey is the latest in a string released this year that point to Americans' deep and growing concern for the environment. When asked which factor posed the greatest long-term threat to their health and wellbeing, Americans chose climate change and environmental problems (45 percent) above terrorism (35 percent) and global epidemics such as ebola (21 percent). This prioritization is consistent with Americans' increasing concern over global warming and the belief expressed by more than half of all respondents (57 percent) that the condition of the environment has worsened over their lifetime.
The Americans surveyed expressed a growing resolve to take personal responsibility for the environment: A whopping 83 percent said they plan to look for more opportunities to live more sustainably in 2015. Similarly, the 60 percent who vowed to make “green” resolutions this year represents a significant increase from previous iterations of the survey (53 percent in 2009 and 49 percent in 2007).
"There is no question but that the environment is emerging as a central concern for most Americans," said Tiller CEO Rob Densen. "The question is less whether the environment needs our attention and more what needs to be done, collectively and as individuals.”
The representative survey of 1,005 respondents across all 50 states was conducted online Dec. 1-4 by the polling firm Pollara Strategic Insights. All respondents were at least 18 years of age. A probability sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. The margin of error is greater for subpopulations of the data.
Key takeaways from the survey include:
- Concerns for the Next Generation: While a small minority of Americans (11 percent) still dismisses the notion of climate change, 58 percent report that their concern about it has increased over the last few years, and six in 10 respondents agreed with the statement that the "environment is in very bad shape and a major environmental catastrophe is inevitable." These concerns have translated into a strong sense of stewardship for future generations. 85 percent of respondents agreed that leaving their children a "cleaner, more sustainable world is/will be one of my greatest responsibilities as a parent."
- Women — A Darker Shade of ‘Green’: The survey revealed that women feel a particularly acute sense of concern about the environment. 62 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that a major environmental catastrophe is inevitable, and women were more likely than men to indicate that their concern over global warming is increasing (64 percent vs. 52 percent). At the same time, women display a higher sense of responsibility for reducing their environmental impact. They were more likely to agree that they would look for more opportunities to "go green" in 2015 (87 percent vs. 78 percent), and were also more apt to value the importance of day-to-day measures to improve the environment (such as moderating personal/household energy usage or bringing their own bags for grocery shopping). Women were more likely than men to say they've felt guilt in recent years about not living a more responsible lifestyle (53 percent vs. 42 percent), and correspondingly were significantly less likely to express a fatalistic attitude about their own actions: Only one in five women agreed with the statement, "It's not worth making changes to lead a green life because one individual cannot have an impact on the environment," as compared with 32 percent of men.
- Corporations' Environmental Efforts Viewed Through a Pragmatic Lens: Of course, business can have a profound impact on the environment as well, and nearly four in five Americans (78 percent) agree that corporations have a responsibility to conduct their business with this in mind. While only 21 percent said they believe a genuine concern for the environment is a major motivating factor for companies that adopt greener behaviors. That said, 72 percent of respondents said that they do not care why a company goes "green" as long as it does, 78 percent of Americans believe it is important to "purchase products from a socially or environmentally responsible company" and 43 percent said they have declined to buy a product over the past year out of concern for the effect the product or its packaging might have on the environment.
- Taking Steps to Make a Difference: The survey evidenced Americans' crucial commitment to grassroots efforts to helping the environment. More than 75 percent of respondents said it's important to buy eco-friendly appliances, use non-toxic cleaning products, reduce household use of paper, and properly dispose of batteries, consumer electronics and everyday household chemicals.
"As we enter a new year, Americans should feel more empowered than ever to make a positive environmental change," said Tiller president Jim Marren. "When it comes to safeguarding the future of our environment, millions of individual actions can have a transformational impact."
While Americans may say they are more concerned about climate change and its impact on their lives, time will tell whether they stick to their resolutions to live more consciously: The 2014 Greendex — a comprehensive measure of consumer behavior in 65 areas related to housing, transportation, food and consumer goods — found that despite increased concern since 2012 about environmental problems in most countries surveyed, corresponding consciousness in consumer behavior has only grown slowly.