Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's Not Easy Going Green

Via The Daily Harangue, a solid new site my friend MemphisII is managing, comes this interesting bit:
...Shockingly (but not really), people don't really seem to care about "going green" if it comes at their own expense. Sure, companies need to be more green, but consumers? No way! Why should they? Of course customers are willing to go green, but only if it doesn't inconvenience them. Why should I pay more for something that is made of recycled paper? If it's better for the world, they should make it cheaper. That way, more will support it. There was an interesting study done that highlights just how "green" people care to be if it means giving up certain everyday items (some of them, luxury items).

You can read about it here... Two Thirds of Americans Would Refuse to Give Up iPod - Even if it Ruined Environment

In response to the question,
If you thought these things were harming the environment, which of the following would you be willing to give up?"

These were the responses...
iPod - 38% would be willing to do without it
Dishwasher - 35%
Microwave - 25%
Cellular phone - 21%
Air conditioning - 14%
TV - 13%
Computer - 7%
Car - 6%
None of the above - 21%
All of the above - 6%


  1. Ezzie, not planning on giving lectures #17 and 18 on statistics, but there are some real problems with the report of the study being linked to. Just a couple of highlights--the group which did the research has a vested interest in the outcome--no way to know if or how they skewed the results, what we're not being told etc.. Two, 1000 people across the country is an insufficient sampling to be able to say "Americans" would not give up their conveniences. The percentages cannot be used with accuracy. If you want a really good read that is also chock full of information, try Richard Best's "
    Damned Lies and Statistics" and the follow up "More Damned Lies and Statistics." You'll never look at statistics in quite the same way again.

  2. The keyword is "IF". In other words, the question poses a theoretical question that IF they THOUGHT these items were harming the environment would they give it up. But my guess is that many who answered the survey do not really believe that many of these items have a serious impact on the environment, thus it was easier for people to say that they wouldn't be willing to give it up.

  3. Actually, anything that uses electricity leaves some type of carbon footprint. What people are willing to without all depends on what you're used to. If you never wash a dish in the sink, then it would very difficult to give up a dishwasher. And if you live off frozen meals that come in microwave ready trays, giving up that type of convenience would seem to be a big deal. I have to admit for myself that I would not wish to do without an air conditioner when the temperature climbs into the 90s, especially if combined with humidity.

  4. I wouldn't give up my ipod if the entire world depended on it. It saved my life the other night! ;-)

  5. ProfK - Considering most Presidential polls are 1000 or so people, I'm okay with the sample size. :)

    But I'm well aware of statistics and the flaws in them.

    Avrom - I don't know how serious any item can be individually. The point is that even things people recognize as damaging the environment they simply won't do without. Yes, that could be because they view the harm as minimal, but so what? As Ariella notes, almost everything leaves some impact. Note that a car, which everyone knows has an impact, got just 6%.

  6. I thank you for linking to me Ezzie... I expect to see more great linking to this site in the future :)

    The point of the article (besides the amazing picture I used for it) is that people don't care about their affects on the environment as long as they don't see those effects directly.

    I know that with cars, for example, I want to drive something that's fuel efficient, or electric. Why? Not because I care about its affect on the environment, but because I want to save money on gas.

    People want convenience. That's the bottom line. Going green has nothing to do with what consumers want. It has to do with companies and their images.

    That's just my take on it...

  7. You mean people act like people rather than wholly rational selfless beings?? I'm shocked, shocked! ;-)

    This is why these things have to be taken care of at the societal (i.e. government) level rather than being left up to people's sense of guilt and responsibility.

  8. Classic tragedy of the commons. The reason libertarianism (and "small government") doesn't work.

  9. How is it wrong? People are willing to screw up the commons for their own short-term good. At the same time, those who do act for the good of the commons are basically suckers because everybody else is benefiting in the short term AND the commons are going to get screwed up anyway. The only solution is to act at the societal level rather than the individual.