<i>Consumer Reports</i> releases new environmental survey, Web site

A new survey published by Consumer Reports to coincide with the launch of the Web site GreenerChoices.org gives a new face to what it means to be green in America. While only 5 percent of respondents consider themselves activists, nearly nine out of 10 actively consider environmental and health factors when making purchases. More and more, consumers are making environmentally friendly choices through their purchasing decisions. They are actively seeking out organic foods, avoiding dangerous chemicals in products, and looking for energy-efficient appliances. GreenerChoices.org will offer consumers reliable and practical advice on how to be more environmentally conscious.

The survey also reveals that consumers are in fact willing to pay more upfront for choices that protect the environment, public and personal health, and long-term savings. The nationally representative, online survey of more than 1,200 U.S. adults was conducted in March 2005.

"It's very clear that while consumers do not want to be labeled green, they are searching for green labels," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, an Environmental Health Scientist and director of GreenerChoices.org as well as Eco-labels.org, another Consumer Reports site.

"Forty-three percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay more for electricity generated from environmentally sound sources like solar and wind power and nearly 7 out of 10 would be willing to pay an additional cost to recycle big-ticket items like TVs and computers. What this says to us is that not only do consumers care, but they're willing to put their money where their mouth is," added Rangan.

The site will explain how making choices with a conscience for the environment often has other important benefits too. These include protecting personal health and saving money -- key reasons why survey respondents buy green. Greenerchoices.org also helps people figure out whether or not greener products actually perform as well as their mainstream counterparts. For example, Consumer Reports recently crowned the Honda Accord Hybrid its top rated family sedan, ousting the Volkswagen Passat, which held the title for the past seven years.

The site launch will begin with a dozen products across several categories, including electronics, appliances, home & garden, autos and food. Consumers can easily find out how to incorporate environmental and health considerations into their product purchases, uses, recycling and disposal. An additional "green ratings" section, starting with eight products, will rank a product's energy, water and fuel efficiency performance and other factors -- especially where Consumer Reports' in-depth testing offers more comprehensive and accurate information than standard environmental claims made on products, such as Energy Star.

The site will also address broader-scale environmental issues related to energy, climate change, agriculture, waste and dangerous chemical substances -- connecting this information to the products people buy. Consumers will also find tools such as energy calculators, rebate information, food label meanings as well as links to help them find out more about their local energy, water and sewage treatment services.

In addition to being a stand-alone site, specific sections of GreenerChoices.org will be linked off the applicable product pages on ConsumerReports.org.

"GreenerChoices.org combines the independence and expertise of Consumer Reports ad-free test ratings and recommendations with the strong public interest and education component of our mission. We're very excited that the site launches at a time when more than three-quarters of consumers are searching for green information on the Internet, and we're looking forward to tracking the marketplace changes we expect to see as a result of making this site easily available to consumers," said Joel Gurin, Executive Vice President of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine.

The GreenerChoices.org site was partially funded through grants from the Surdna Foundation and the Foundation of Donor Advised Funds.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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