Finding Data – The Greendex

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For the third year running National Geographic has teamed up with Globe Scan to provide the Greendex, an annual survey designed “to develop an international research approach to measure and monitor consumer progress towards environmentally sustainable consumption.”  Specifically, the Greendex is a tool to help consumers worldwide to both understand their consumption patterns and to be able to view them within context to others.

The Greendex survey questions were designed to capture the participant’s knowledge, behavior and views on environmental issues and consumer habits ranging from transportation to food choices. The study is based on a sample of 17,000 individuals in 17 countries (14 in 2008). So, while perhaps not a truly  “definitive” study on a global scale, the Greendex survey countries represent the heaviest hitters in terms of resource consumption, and the Greendex 2010 Report provides some interesting insights.

Some notables from the study:

– Respondents from 10 of the 17 countries polled showed an increase in “environmentally friendly consumer behavior” between this year and last.

– Consumers with the highest rankings for “green” choices are in developing nations. Top scores go to India, Brazil and China (in that order).

– Uh-oh USA … we’re showing slight improvement relative to ourselves last year, but we’re still at the bottom of the heap.

– The strongest changes in personal behavior that made positive impacts were in the Housing category (home energy efficiency).

Read the highlights report here.

Calculate your own personal “Greendex” here.

And finally, how reliable are self-reported behavior surveys anyway? Separate the fact from fiction with the Market Basket report.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

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This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

photo by Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

Extended Producer Responsibility refers to the concept that manufacturers have an obligation to take a more active role in the entire life-cycle of their products in order to reduce the burden of recycling and disposal currently borne by local governments and taxpayers. The approaches to EPR may vary, from optimized manufacturing processes that allow a product to be dismantled and recycled more easily thereby reducing the amount of waste and/or toxic materials sent to landfill, to “take back” programs that allow consumers to return an end-of-life product back to the manufacturer for recycling or disposal.

EPR is often achieved through mandates from local  and state governments. Besides “take back” programs, strategies may include:

–Additional fees or taxes for producers and consumers of certain products to recover disposal costs;

–“Environmentally preferable purchasing” guidelines for manufacturers that may, among other things, ensure less waste by setting recycled-content requirements for new products; and

–Design requirements that reduce the unnecessary packaging waste, extend the life of products, etc.

One common application of EPR programs and/or mandates is in regard to electronics waste, or “e-waste”.

Related term:

Product Stewardship is often used as another term  for extended producer responsibility, but can also incorporate actions that do not directly target manufacturing practices. Product stewardship may examine the entire structure of production and consumption including all stakeholders: manufacturers, vendors, consumers, and government, with the emphasis on shared responsibility for the end-of-life-cycle of products. Product stewardship, as EPR, may be achieved through any combination of legislation, mandates, incentives, collaborative processes, voluntary action from manufacturers and education and outreach to producers and/or consumers.

What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.