Do Americans’ Actions Speak Louder than Words on Climate & Energy?

Report Summary

The Yale Project on Climate Change released in its 3rd report: Americans’ Actions to Conserve Energy, Reduce Waste, and Limit Global Warming. In brief, found that there is a significant gap between Americans’ conservation attitudes and their actual behaviors. For example:

  • 88 percent of Americans say it is important to recycle at home, but only 51 percent “often” or “always” do;
  • 81 percent say it is important to use re-usable shopping bags, but only 33 percent “often” or “always” do;
  • 76 percent say it is important to buy locally grown food, but only 26 percent “often” or “always” do;
  • 76 percent say it is important to walk or bike instead of driving, but only 15 percent “often” or “always” do;
  • 72 percent of Americans say it is important to use public transportation or carpool, but only 10 percent say they “often” or “always” do;

On the positive side, large majorities of Americans think these actions are important. Yet there is also plenty of room to improve. It is important to recognize, however, that each behavior confronts its own set of barriers. For example, public transportation may not be locally available or convenient. Policies to lower these barriers will make it much easier for people to act in ways consistent with their values.

The survey also found that, in the past year, approximately 1 out of three Americans have rewarded companies that are taking steps to reduce global warming by buying their products, while slightly fewer report that they have punished companies that have opposed steps to reduce global warming by not buying their products. Finally, in the past year 12 percent of Americans have contacted government officials about global warming. Of these, 72 percent urged officials to take action to reduce global warming.