Are Women The Globe’s Green Giants?

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A growing body of research shows a split down gender lines when we make environmental choices.

Men may be from Mars, but women are the greener creatures, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Women in industrialized countries buy most of the eco-friendly household products.  Women also load up on organic foods. They recycle more and have greater interest in energy-efficient appliances, according to OECD surveys. Israel and Turkey are the only Middle East members of the OECD. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research Press indicates women are more willing than men to pay higher income taxes and gasoline prices when the funds are used to support environmental protection.

Eight years of Gallup polls suggest females have greater knowledge of the science behind climate change. They’re more concerned about environmental risks to health, particularly on a local level, and give stronger support to environmental crusaders.

Of course, these stats don’t prove women are hyper-conscious of ecological issues, it’s just that their actions lean to green.

Our choices are often made absent consideration of associated environmental impacts. Sleepwalking through decisions about our diet and transportation can result in significantly nasty impacts.

Not to wade too deep into the seas of stereotype (I say as I stereotype), but women worldwide have less effect on the atmosphere in part because they drive less, fly less, eat less, and fart less. The meat industry generates enormous greenhouse gas emissions, and men eat more meat.

These behavioral truisms widen the green gender gap in the Middle East, where economics, culture, and religion further differentiate how the sexes live their daily lives. And don’t forget there are more men than women on the planet.

Auto industry data show men buy trucks and cars and sport utility vehicles that consistently rank among the lowest-mileage vehicles on the road.

Have you ever seen a Prius commercial during a Super Bowl?

OK, so we know men have bigger feet. Carnegie Mellon University researchers say the average carbon footprint for a single American man is 32 tons annually, compared with 30 tons for his female counterpart, mainly due to driving habits. European studies draw similar conclusions.

These differences seep into politics. Environmental issues fuel a growing gender gap between Democrats and Republicans (GOP) in America: the Pew Research Center for People and the Press reports that women have consistently been moving away from the GOP for the past three decades.

This year’s presidential campaign is giving eco-savvy women added incentive to switch teams, especially when Republican presidential candidates trip over flashpoint issues. Newt Gingrich declared the Kyoto Protocol as “bad for the environment and bad for America” and Rick Santorum declared global warming a “hoax”.  Surely, environmental issues color politics in other democratic nations too.

In this X-Factor era, silly competition makes for idle amusement. “Us versus them” when it comes to environmental behavior is also a no-benefit distraction.

A hundred years ago, an  American scientist, ecologist, forester and environmentalist named Aldo Leopold proposed that mankind (that includes boys AND girls) learn to expand human relationships to include “relationships with the land”.  He urged us to adopt  “a land ethic that changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land to a plain member and citizen of it”.

Leopold’s philosophy was amplified by subsequent environmental pioneers like Rachel Carson and Bill McKibbon.  Green Prophet’s brought you artist Jason deCaires Taylor who incorporates this ideal in his underwater sculpture parks, teaching tourists to view beaches as living ecosystems, and not just wallpaper to some kick-back fun in the sun. There are legions of others teaching smarter ways of green living.

Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice.  Stop looking for differences and let’s all treat the world nice.

Image of green woman from Shutterstock

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7 thoughts on “Are Women The Globe’s Green Giants?”

  1. laurie says:

    Ouch!

    Need to add disclaimer: I don’t subscribe to those awful stereotypes(MadMen-like business guy vs.composting stay-at-home mom).

    I recycle, and I fly too much.

    Back to the point: we all need to clean up our act within the context of whatever lifestyle we choose.

    1. I think there are some things one of the sexes might be better at than the other. It’s boring being too politically correct. Of course men can recycle, and teach the kids all about being green at home but I think the reality is, at least for most of the world, that it is women taking on these rolls as primary caregiver, especially if the woman is breastfeeding for extended periods of time. We can all agree that this is a skill that men DO NOT possess!

  2. laurie says:

    These old stats are absolutely “lifestyle & domestic use” – centric, and I think you both hit on why women score better in the numbers: it has more to do with equal opportunity than eco-awareness.

    More men than women stand on the top rungs of the corporate, educational and political ladders. Comparing the carbon spit-out of a jet-setting, steak eating, truck-driving businessman to a that of the person guarding the home roost (and then awarding her a prize for being greener) is like Mitt Romney commending Israel for having a stronger GDP than Palestine’s: there are other factors at play behind the factual data.

    Arwa’s most recent story about national consumption is telling a similar tale: interesting to make comparisons, but in the end we are inextricably linked as one whole. My choices affect your world. As Karin says, sustaining the planet is the show everyone has a starring role in.

  3. JTR says:

    Karin, if the 99% of men you refer to took good care of the Earth there would still be the need to support women’s right to equal opportunity in the workplace. But in fact those men are despoiling the the Earth to such an extreme degree nothing living, men women and children, other animals, birds and insects have any chance at all of surviving the massive tons of garbage, trash, junk, smoke and fumes dumped into the environment every day — unless we agree to safely recycle 100% of it, and to peacefully reduce the human population with family planning education in which all women have the legally protected right to decide if and when to conceive and birth their children. But human populations keep right on growing and dumping, while the recycling movement grows too slowly to make much of a difference.

    1. There is a partnership at play here, obviously. Roles for both genders to take on.

  4. Laurie, I agree on your stance – for domestic household issues. But when it comes to clean tech companies and founding them, it seems that 99% of the movers and shakers in the world are men. So, arguably, both sexes have their roles to play.

  5. JTR says:

    Women and men should be able to agree to peacefully reduce the human population with family planning education and safely recyce 100% of human-generated waste materials. Then there would be plenty of resources for everyone on a vibrantly healthy planet.

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