Study: Americans buy green to save environment

Despite the current economic crisis, its seems Americans are willing to spend green to go green.

A study conducted by Yale and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change and Communication published last week found that Americans are taking an extremely proactive stance on global warming prevention — that they are willing, for instance, to boycott companies that do not sell green products, pay more for green products and pressure the government to pass green legislation.

The study, conducted by Anthony Leiserowtiz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, and Edward Maibach and Connie Roser-Renouf of George Mason, was a pilot study for a long-term study aiming to build a panel comprised of the participants of the study and their children. The team will follow the 2,164 American adults surveyed to determine whether and how their beliefs on climate change and green behaviors change over time.

Roser-Renouf said the study’s results were fairly counterintuitive.

“One thing that was extremely surprising from the results was the high proportion of people who are already engaging in consumer activism,” she said. “They are choosing green products and are spending their money at companies that they feel are trying to do something to reduce the climate change.”

Almost four out of five Americans would be willing to pay an extra $1,000 to buy a more fuel-efficient car and over 50 percent have boycotted companies that oppose steps to reduce global warming, according to the study.

Roser-Renouf said that companies selling green products should advertise them more prominently, since consumers are basing what they buy on the company’s green policy.

“The primary barrier to consumer activism is not the cost of the green products,” Roser-Renouf said. “If I were a CEO, I would want to look at my practices to see whether or not they are sustainable and make sure that I am communicating that to the public.”

The study also found that only 10 percent of the population believes global warming will personally affect them. (Most indicated they believed global warming would primarily affect third-world countries, future generations, and plant and animal species.)

While this may seem like a low number, Roser-Renouf said that, compared to just a few years ago, many more people are beginning to recognize the impact global warming will soon have. For instance, in earlier surveys, people projected the effects of global warming would be felt 50 to 100 years from now, but this study found people believe the effects will be felt in the next 10 or 20 years, she said.

Maibach said Americans’ consumer activism and participation in the green movement can be explained by the fact that they believe global warming is going to harm other people. Studies have shown, on the other hand, that people are less likely to take action if they believe that global warming will only affect plants and animals.

“People are fairly altruistic,” he said of this phenomenon.

Roser-Renouf said the research team will continue to use the data generated by the study in order to determine how to best tailor educational modules on climate change to the different demographics surveyed.

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