News Brief

People Want a Greener Future but Don’t Know How to Get There

Sixty percent of people in a USGBC survey identified recycling as one of the top three ways to help the environment. Only 7% chose “Live in a green building.”

Cover of Living Standard Issue 001

Green building practitioners should be emphasizing quality of life, argues the report.

Image: U.S. Green Building Council
U.S. residents are concerned about the future state of the environment, but they’re not doing much about it. They also don’t see green building as part of the solution.

These were some of the conclusions of a recent study commissioned by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and conducted by ClearPath Strategies. Part of the new “Living Standard” program introduced at Greenbuild in 2018, The Standard Issue 001 is the first in a series of research reports being published by USGBC throughout 2019. The report reveals that many people across the U.S. are worried about the future of the planet but don’t feel empowered to act.

Part of the disconnect, according to the research, has to do with timeframes. “While 40% of respondents say the environment is one of their biggest concerns for the future, less than a quarter of survey respondents say the environment is one of their biggest concerns today,” states the report.

Respondents also felt a psychological distance from environmental problems. When asked who was impacted by environmental degradation, 45% of people chose “everyone;” only 10% said “people like me.” Similarly, 50% said we are all responsible for environmental damage, and just 11% said “people like me.” Says the report, “These questions were ‘Select all that apply,’ meaning that they could have chosen answers identifying themselves as impacted. But they didn’t.”

Perhaps most disappointing for building professionals were responses about the impact of green building on the environment, people, and communities. “Only 11% of respondents associate words like ‘green building’ and ‘green space’ with creating an environment in which people live longer and healthier lives. This is far below other phrases, which people do associate with the environment—like recycling (45%), water conservation (40%), and climate change (32%),” the report states.

The solution? “When making our promise to people,” the report urges, “we need to emphasize the most credible, tangible benefits, like cleaner air, less exposure to toxins, and cleaner water.”

For more information:


Published September 9, 2019

Melton, P. (2019, September 9). People Want a Greener Future but Don’t Know How to Get There. Retrieved from

Add new comment

To post a comment, you need to register for a BuildingGreen Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.