What do most Americans think about climate change? How well do we really understand it? Carbon Zero set out to understand America's Carbon Consciousness, and the results were highly illuminating.
March 23, 2022
When the Carbon Zero team first started reflecting on our Strategy, we were guided by one question: “How can we be most helpful?” To find our answers, we went right to the source - the carbon consciousness of everyday people.
Over several months, Carbon Zero has conducted market research with 1,000s of Americans to better understand their perspectives on climate change. The goal of these studies was to identify the most powerful ways that Carbon Zero could be of service in the fight for sustainable living. Here are 5 key takeaways from our research:
A staggering 91% of people are concerned about climate change. Though this topic is often politicized in ways that suggest there is more division than unity, the numbers say otherwise. Across every gender, race, ethnicity, age, income, and education group, the vast majority of people expressed concern for climate change. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Americans not only share a common concern for the planet, but 82% feel a personal sense of responsibility to help reduce climate change and 89% want to do more to protect the planet.
Unfortunately, these concerns are not coupled with action. Only 28% of people incorporate sustainability into their daily lives. When asked specifically about carbon offsetting, only 15% of people reported consistently purchasing offsets whereas 41% of people said they have never purchased a single offset. Even among those who identify as being the most concerned about climate change, only 22% regularly purchase offsets, while 33% have never purchased a single offset.
So if we are all so concerned, why don’t we take consistent action against climate change?
The top two explanations for this discrepancy are that (1) people feel unsure of what to do and (2) overwhelmed that it will be too difficult. Unsurprisingly, the need for education and direction stood out elsewhere in the data too.
For example, consider the question of carbon offsetting described above. When we asked if people had ever purchased carbon offsets, 15% said they do consistently, 20% said they have a few times, and 41% said they never have. The second leading answer? 24% said they do not know what carbon offsets are! (If you don’t know either, check out our FAQ for more info).
Even among those who identify as being the most concerned about the environment, the results are not too different. 22% regularly purchase offsets, 23% have done so a few times, 33% have never purchased offsets, and 22% do not know what carbon offsets are.
More telling results include:
Suffice to say, there is an urgent need for education and direction in order to scale solutions.
Thankfully, people are excited to embrace solutions when they are handed to them. Of those who do not know their carbon footprint, 75% would like to.
Though it appears most people are unlikely to take the initiative on their own, they are very responsive to empowerment structures that systemize their sustainability efforts.
So what role do companies play in all this? Based on our data, the general sentiment is that companies are more of a hindrance than a help in fighting climate change. 47% of people believe that companies are most at fault for the current state of climate change. 59% of people think companies make it harder for them to live sustainably.
Of course, you can look at this data and say the responsibility is on everyday people to vote with their dollar. And that’s fair: we all have to take responsibility for our behaviors to successfully fight climate change. But a far more compelling question to our team is: what if more companies actually facilitated that process? What if our consumerism aligned with our desire to help achieve progress?
At Carbon Zero, we believe enterprises are uniquely poised to help people act and transact on their values. It is from this belief and this body of research that Carbon Zero’s Values, Strategy, Vision, Mission, and overall Product were born.
People want to do more to fight climate change, and we want to help. The Carbon Zero Credit Card not only helps people consistently and effortlessly achieve carbon neutral lives, but also does the incredibly important work of raising the carbon consciousness of everyday people. Why is this important? Because the more we know, the more effectively we can act, transact, protest, mobilize, and vote in service of climate change.