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It's the color of money, envy and trees, but 4 in 10 Americans say being “green� has little to do with hue. In fact, a recent survey finds that when 39 percent of adults think of being green, the idea that most readily comes to their mind is recycling. Only 19 percent think about cutting back on driving or driving more fuel-efficient cars, and just 14 percent think about using power sources that do not pollute the environment, such as wind or solar energy. Even so, more than 2 in 5 Americans (44 percent) say they would try harder to be green if more environmentally friendly products and services were readily available to them, and an additional 20 percent would do so if they thought their efforts would make a difference.

The study, commissioned by Austin, Texas-based Green Mountain Energy Company, reveals that Americans' definitions of being green, the likelihood that they will engage in environmentally sound behaviors and their opinions about teaching children to be environmentally conscious differ significantly by demographics. For this survey, a representative sample of 1,018 Americans, age 18 and older, was polled by telephone between March 8 and 11 by Princeton, N.J.-based Opinion Research Corporation. The results were weighted to reflect the demographic makeup of the United States.

Young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are the most likely of all age groups to equate being green with recycling. Half of these young people think of recycling when they think about being environmentally friendly, compared with only 25 percent of those age 55 and older. On the flip side, 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 55 think of being green as driving less or driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, compared with just 1 in 7 of the 18- to 34-year-old group.

When it comes to participating in green activities, the most wealthy Americans (defined by this survey as earning $50,000 or more per year) are more likely than any other income group to say they would make more of an effort if more environmentally friendly products and services were available to them (50 percent of them agree, compared with 40 percent of those making less than $25,000 annually). Those living in households with three or more people are also more likely than those in other household types to say they're looking for products and services that would be less harmful to the environment (46 percent, compared with 36 percent of single-person households).

However, Americans living alone and those in the lower income brackets would be more likely to go green if they knew it would really help. A quarter of singles, as well as those earning less than $25,000 per year, say that they would try harder to be green if they thought their efforts would make a difference. By contrast, just 18 percent of those living in households of three or more and 17 percent of Americans with annual incomes of $50,000 or more hold the same view.

Businesses hoping to turn Americans living in metro areas into friends of the environment would be wise to make the process convenient above all else. Nineteen percent of city dwellers, versus 12 percent of non-metro residents, say they would be more likely to make environmentally conscious decisions if what they had to do to carry out their decisions could be made easier and less time-consuming.

Ignorance about how to be more friendly to the environment is another reason that some Americans say they are not living greener lives. For example, 22 percent of African Americans say they would make an effort to be green if they knew how to get started, compared with 11 percent of whites. Northeasterners are similarly confused, but just 9 percent of Westerners use that excuse for failing to frolic in greener pastures.

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Teaching children the importance of protecting wildlife habitats is a concern to almost twice as many Americans ages 18 to 34 as those 55 and older.


UNDER $50K OVER $50K 18-34 35-54 55+
Protecting wildlife habitats 19% 12% 21% 15% 11%
Energy conservation 17% 24% 17% 21% 20%
Preserving natural resources 36% 39% 33% 38% 36%
Reducing air pollution 24% 20% 24% 20% 28%
Source: Green Mountain Energy Company/Opinion Research Corporation
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