Survey: Americans Much More Likely To Recycle

Turns out, people can change their behaviors, given time and a decent reason.

According to a new survey conducted by SC Johnson and GfK Roper Consulting, Americans are two times more likely to sort their garbage from trash to recyclable materials than they were in 1990, when the SC Johnson first conducted its "Green Gauge" survey. At the same time, 75% of Americans said they feel good when they take these steps to help the environment.

Among the factors that influence people to change their behaviors, financial incentives and penalties led the list, with both ranking at 49%, ahead of family, friends and government. At the bottom of the list: celebrities, who only garnered 7%.

Unfortunately, because it's a long-term problem that requires long-term solutions, the environment can wind up taking a backseat to more pressing crises. Though 48% of people surveyed said they were concerned about the environment overall, 41% cited economic security as their No. 1 concern, up from 13% in 2007's pre-recessionary survey.

A big part of the increased action can be directly traced to increased knowledge. In 1990, 39% of consumers said they were confused about what was good and bad for the environment. Twenty years later, only 18% feel that way. Perhaps not surprisingly given these findings, 38% said individual Americans should take the lead in addressing environmental programs and issues, followed by business and industry (cited by 29%).

"It is empowering to see the dramatic shifts in behavior change and to gain greater insight into tiers of consumer influence," stated Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of SC Johnson. "To move the needle even further, all parties -- government, businesses and consumers -- need to continue to take responsibility and action. For SC Johnson, this means working hard to find new ways to help families make greener choices."

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