As awareness of environmental issues and concern over the future rises, American consumers are rising to meet the challenge implicit in our environmental problems. According to a publication by the SC Johnson company (makers of Pledge, Ziploc, Windex and more products that many people use every day), the American public has greatly increased its understanding of environmental issues and conservation in the past 21 years. In fact, SC Johnson has published a very interesting fact sheet showing just how much consumer attitudes and behaviors have changed since 1990 (http://www.scjohnson.com/Libraries/Download_Documents/SCJ_and_GfK_Roper_Green_Gauge_Highlights.sflb.ashx). Let’s look at some highlights:
Awareness is on the Rise In 1995, only about half of all American consumers felt that they knew much about the problems in our environment. This means that 16 years ago only five out of ten people felt informed about issues such as global warming, climate change, greenhouse gasses, pollution, storm water issues and the like. In 2011 these numbers grew, with the survey finding that seven out of ten people feel that they are properly aware of the global climate and other environmental issues. This means that in 16 short years there has been a 30% increase in consumer awareness. Great news, especially if this awareness translates into a call for action.
Awareness is Not the Same as Answers Unfortunately, uncertainty still exists. The SC Johnson data finds that 48% of Americans still feel uncertain about the future of our environment. This means that nearly half of Americans simply do not know what to expect of our future. They wonder whether it will get better or worse, or simply stay the same. What of the other 52%? SC Johnson did not release that information, leaving us to wonder if people think positively or negatively about the future of our planet Earth.
We Do Seem to Have Some Opinions While nearly half of Americans do not know what the future holds, the SC Johnson survey found that today nearly three quarters of Americans believe that businesses should look at sustainable practices and products if they want to be economically competitive. In short, they agreed that manufacturers who use environmentally friendly processes, procedures and materials will do a better business in the near future than companies who do not have sustainability and greenness in mind.
We are Taking Action The SC Johnson survey further found that Americans are taking action, changing the way we have behaved since the early 1990s. In fact, according to their research in 2011 twice as many people are recycling as they were in 1990. A full 58% of Americans say that they recycle on a regular basis. But what of the other 42%? Well, obviously we all still have work to do in the way of informing people of the importance of protecting our environment. Apparently, 70% of Americans are aware of our global environmental problems, yet only 58% of Americans bother to recycle. That leaves us with 12% who know there is a problem, yet are not even a small part of the solution through simple recycling. And, it leaves us with 30% of people who are not even educated on the topic enough to understand the issues, let alone to take action.
Where the Answer Can be Found Likely, the key to driving consumer action in conservation and recycling is education. This SC Johnson study clearly shows that people who are educated are more prone to action. And, that our information age is starting to truly educate people on our environmental problems. We need to continue down this path, looking for both corporate and personal responsibility, continuing to spread the word about eco-issues and hope that this knowledge results in continued, sustained green activities.