When the economy tanked, Americans changed their consumer habits -- they grew their savings and grounded their spending. Who could blame them? America, after all, fell into a recession that was being compared with the Great Depression.
But, in an upbeat sign of the country's commitment to the environment, what Americans didn't change was their green behavior -- the point that the recent Gallup report seemed to miss.
"Americans are today no more environmentally friendly in their actions than they were at the turn of the century," stated the report, finding that the percentage of people who recycled in 2000 and 2010 was the same, a staggering 90%.
Tone aside, the report was short on context, failing to note that during the last decade, the recycling rate for plastic water bottles jumped. It increased to more than 30%, almost 10 points above the 2000 rate, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources and the International Bottled Water Association.
And even sales of bottled water, which were growing exponentially since 2000, peaked in 2007, and even slightly dipped in 2008, according to the Beverage Marketing Group. Indeed, there are signs of improved green behavior, as well as much work to be done.
But the Gallup report sees things differently: "Those who are willing to undertake such measures are probably already doing so, while others may never be willing to do so."
The statement overlooks the continued growth of greener consumption -- which is now a consideration of more than three out of four Americans. The report highlighted a 4% decrease in donations to environmental organizations, attributing Americans being "no more likely now than in the past to engage in activist behavior." But -- dare I say -- it might have more to do with the depths of the recession and the double-digit unemployment rate and less about apathy.
The report doesn't even touch upon the exploding popularity of farmers' markets and community-supported agriculture programs. In New York, food stamps are now accepted at farmers' markets, making greener behavior even more accessible.
There is much that contributes to a strengthening of green behavior in America -- in the past decade, and in the next.
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