Brazil, India's Citizens Are Greenest, Survey Finds

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
May 7, 2008

A new global survey reveals which country's citizens have the most environmentally friendly lifestyles by examining the impact of individual consumer behavior.

The National Geographic Society and the international polling firm GlobeScan today unveiled "Greendex 2008: Consumer Choice and the Environment—A Worldwide Tracking Survey." (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

"The Greendex gives us an unprecedented, meaningful look at how consumers across the globe are behaving," said Terry Garcia, National Geographic's executive vice president of mission programs.

Consumers in Brazil and India tied as most "green," while those in the United States scored lowest, or most wasteful.

To create the survey, GlobeScan conducted Internet surveys of consumers in 14 countries, which together represent more than half of the world's population and use about 75 percent of its energy.

Rather than measuring each nation's environmental impact, the Greendex compares the behaviors of individuals in four key areas: housing, transportation, food, and consumer goods.

Brazilians and Indians each scored 60 on the sustainable-consumption scale. Citizens of other nations scored as follows: China (56.1); Mexico (54.3); Hungary (53.2); Russia (52.4); Great Britain, Germany and Australia (each at 50.2); Spain (50); Japan (49.1); France (48.7); Canada (48.5); and the U.S. (44.9).

Face-to-face studies were conducted in Egypt and Nigeria, because limited Internet penetration there did not allow for a full representation of national demographics, according to the survey organizers. These countries were not scored because of the differing methodology.

Individual Choices

Greendex scores were based on responses to questions about 65 sustainable-development variables. The variables were determined after consultation with input 27 independent environmental consultants.

Housing factors included dwelling size; energy use for heating, cooling, and appliances; and water needs. Brazilians topped this category because they typically have smaller homes, rarely use air conditioning or heating, and rely heavily on on-demand, tankless water-heating systems.

Transportation behaviors measured included ownership rates and average usage of motorized vehicles, length of daily commutes, and utilization of public transport. Chinese scored highest on transportation, because, at least for now, most rely on bicycles or walking and drive few motorized vehicles per capita.

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