Walking the eco talk, few Americans put conservation into action

Sure, supporting conservation sounds good. Who wouldn’t want to get rid of pollution, reduce their carbon footprint, or better yet save the world? But while a new poll shows an overwhelming majority of people care strongly about conservation, few take even the simplest steps to help it.

Researchers at Yale and George Mason universities asked poll-takers a set of questions about a few staple eco habits from carpooling and buying locally grown food to recycling or turning out the lights. Support for each conservation behavior ranged from 72 to 92 percent – turning off unneeded lights bringing the most consensus. Yet only 10 percent of people said they “often” or “always” use public transit; 26 percent said they usually buy local, and just 51 percent regularly recycle. (Check out the graphic to see more results.)

What’s most disheartening to me is that the habits asked of the poll-takers are some of the cheapest, easiest and healthiest changes that can help conservation, and still people don’t practice them. Even I’m a little guilty of it. Though I try to recycle everything under the sun and wave my Eco Pass to every bus driver in town, there’s a healthy pile of paper grocery bags next to my less-often used pile of canvas ones.

The reasons people don’t walk the eco talk isn’t as straightforward as forgetting or choosing not to. (I wish it were. Then maybe a little extra encouragement would get folks going.) The trouble is that many of those reasons may be beyond their control. “For example, public transportation may not be locally available or convenient,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change. “Overcoming barriers such as these will make it much easier for people to act in ways consistent with their values.”

This poll has its caveats. It only surveyed 1,001 American adults, and the results reported in the press release focus on the extremes of the survey. It would be interesting to see how the numbers fell in the mid-zone. But the overall message is an eye-opener. We can do better, me included.


5 responses to “Walking the eco talk, few Americans put conservation into action

  • utherdoul

    It is really hard to walk the Eco talk, simple as the various talks are to do, but it’s really easy to make excuses for not doing them. Even if they are “justified” (myself included). No matter how much higher those percentages get, I think we’ll all have a little room to do a bit better.

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  • Linda Helm

    I can join the “mea culpa party myself”. I don’t do everything I should do as an inidvidual or as a business person. I think that the key is to start from where you are and begin taking small steps – go ahead and take the path of least resistance – it’s better than doing nothing. Living mindfully is not an all or nothing proposition – it’s a journey. Start today and see where you end up.

  • Brian

    Excellent article. Looking forward to seeing you write more articles about this topic.

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