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Survey says German consumers aren't that green

Sabine Devins · 14 May 2009, 19:07

Published: 14 May 2009 19:07 GMT+02:00

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National Geographic’s second annual “Greendex” put Germany in a virtual tie for 10th place out of 17 countries around the world. While ahead of most western nations in thinking green, Germany’s ranking was still far behind developing world heavyweights India, Brazil and even notorious polluter China.

But that’s because the Greendex focuses on the personal “green” choices made by each country’s consumers rather than industrial pollution or other environmental menaces.

The survey examined the day-to-day lifestyle of 1,000 people from each country to determine their choices regarding housing, transportation, food and consumer goods. Compared to last year, average national green scores have increased, though most people cited financial concerns as the reason for cutting back consumption rather than concern for the environment.

Low rankings in the consumer goods and transportation categories dragged down the overall German score. High rates of car ownership and regularly driving solo put Germany at 12th in the transportation ranking. Germany fared even worse in the consumer goods section, ranking second-to-last despite owning more energy-efficient appliances. The survey noted despite the low-ranking, Germany was on par with other Western countries.

German consumers scored best on the food category, coming in sixth place worldwide for how green their habits were. More Germans are eating locally grown foods compared to those surveyed last year (up at 55 percent from 48 percent), but their love of bottled water hurt their score considerably as more than 81 percent drink it regularly.

High demand for home heating landed Germany tenth on the housing subindex.

Rüdiger Rosenthal of the German environmental group BUND said Germans still have far to go in conserving energy for environmental reasons. “By reducing the amount of energy used in electricity and heating homes, there is massive potential for improvement in Germany’s use of fossil fuels,” he told The Local.

However, the survey also found German green attitudes unchanged from the previous year. Despite considering themselves ecologically minded, National Geographic found that Germans are the least likely to consider themselves very concerned about the environment. While the 17-country average of those that are very concerned is 55 percent, only 43 percent of Germans surveyed agreed.

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The magazine noted developing nations at the top of the list were there because of their low scores in the housing category, many due to no need for household heating. India fared well in the housing category, but consumers there were the least likely to have hot water. Brazilians scored well on housing, as most of those surveyed lived in homes with four rooms or less. Those in developing nations also tended to live close to where they work, leading to lower scores on the transportation category.

Canada and the United States fared the worst on the “Greendex” overall.

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Sabine Devins (news@thelocal.de)

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