According to a recent study tracking global attitudes towards consumption and the environment, inhabitants of Brazil and India have the world’s most environmentally-sustainable lifestyle and Americans the least. The full report can be accessed here
The survey by the National Geographic Society establishes a “Greendex” — an index measuring the economic impact of consumer lifestyle choices — in four key areas: housing, transportation, food and goods. Overall, the survey determined that inhabitants of developing countries are most concerned about the impacts of their lifestyle choices on the environment, and made consumption choices reflecting these concerns. Consequently their lifestyles had fewer adverse effects on the environment than people in developed countries. The highest scores — denoting the greatest environmental consciousness — were found in Brazil and India, each tied with 60 points. They were followed by consumers in China (56.1), Mexico (54.3), Hungary (53.2) and Russia (52.4). Inhabitants of developing countries, were more likely to live in smaller homes, use green products and own relatively few appliances or electronic gadgets. They also were more likely to walk, cycle, use public transportation and live close to their most frequent destinations.
Response to the report from bloggers in Brazil could best be described as slightly incredulous.
“Os chineses, brasileiros e indianos como “verdes”… gimme a break” as one respondent on the Verbeat blog noted. The blogs owb writers argues that the report seems to fail to take into account the fact that the residents of countries with lower incomes are only higher on the Greendex scale because of their reduced economic power as consumers.
To a certain extent such arguments are legitimate. Brazil ranks as the ‘greenest’ of the nations surveyed in relation to housing. The report itself argues that “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”. Housing conditions for a large number of Brazilians, particularly the poorest urban dwellers largely reflect economic conditions rather than personal choice. That said a further criticism of the survey might be the fact that in being administered online, a significant proportion of the Brazilian population has most likely been ignored.
However, a more detailed inspection of the findings shows that Brazilians attitudes toward the environment genuinely appear to be stronger than most other nations. they are far more likely to state that they are very concerned by environmental problems and far less likely to see the environmental movement as a passing fad. Brazilians are also most likely to avoid purchasing environmentally unfriendly products and 20% of Brazilians claim to have visited an environmental protest in the last year (USA 4% / GB 5%). If knowledge is a critical factor in determining attitudes and behaviour towards the environment, unfortunately Brazilians score amongst the lowest in their understadning of issues – see below
Perhaps the most interesting element of the survey relates to the perceived changes in behaviour that economic development may be likely to drive. At 40%, the number of Brazilians who daily use public transport is significantly higher than the global average of 27%. However, Brazilians and Mexicans state the greatest increase in likelihod to drive alone in a car in the past year. The desire to own a big house is still much stronger for Brazilians than consumers in most developed nations
Elsewhere within the report there are a number of interesting features of Brazilian scoiety and consumer behaviour to be observed. A few quick examples here –
- Brazilians rank political problems as the most pressing national concern – (see map below)
- 40% of Brazilians use public transport every/most days (global avg =27%)
- Brazilians consume more beef than any other nation in the survey (16% daily)
- Brazilians consume less fish and seafood than almost all other nationalities surveyed
- 52% of Brazilians always or regularly recycle materials (global avg = 57%)
- Brazil has the 2nd lowest number of dishwashers of all nations surveyed (11%)