Aussies eco-efforts better, but not great, says new report



Australia map

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Australian consumers are making more environment-friendly choices but are still ranked as among the worst in the world, according to a new report.

In the annual Greendex Survey released by the National Geographic Society, Australia showed a marked improvement in consumer behaviour towards the environment, with the overall index raising almost three points on last years score.

However, out of the 17 countries surveyed Australia came in at number 12, down two places from last year. India, Brazil and China topped the list and developed economies such as the US and Canada also scoring poorly.

The index ranks countries according to four categories - food, goods, housing and transport and their effect on the environment.

Francine Garlin, a marketing and consumer behaviour expert at UTS in Sydney said the results are reflective of the Australian way of life. "The results of many of the factors measured reflect Australian culture and cultural values," she said.

Compared to other nations, Australians tend to have large houses with a high number of electrical appliances and are also extremely depended on their cars. Australians are also quick to adopt new technologies such as plasma/LCD televisions and more recently TiVo which would have also contributed to the score, Garlin said.

But it wasn't all bad news. Australian consumers were commended for the use of energy-efficient appliances and for their excellent recycling efforts. Australia came in at number two in the food category behind India because of the majority of Australian produce is grown locally.

"Much more of our food is grown close to consumers and not imported from continents away," said Terry Leahy, an environmental sociologist from The University of Newcastle.

Overall, all fourteen countries surveyed in 2008 produced a better index score in 2009 with the exception of Brazil. Terry Garcia, vice president of Mission Programs at National Geographic said the trends may be due to the financial crisis with consumers reducing energy and fuel usage to reduce costs.

According to the survey, Australian consumers were now more concerned about the economy than the environment with 54 per cent of those surveyed outlining the economy as the country's most important issue in 2009, which was up from 16 per cent the previous year. Concern for the environment dropped from 36 to 22 per cent over the same time period.

Garcia hopes the behaviours adopted by consumers to save money will continue even when the economy recovers.

"We hope the green behaviors that consumers are adopting now to cut costs will become part of their permanent lifestyles and that environmental concerns will become increasingly important for consumers around the globe," he said.