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On Earth Day, majority of New Yorkers concerned about pollution, climate change

Nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers say they are very concerned about water pollution, air pollution and deforestation, a new Siena College Research Institute (SCRI) survey shows.

More than half of the respondents to the Earth Day poll said they are very concerned about climate change.

“New Yorkers, by over two-to-one, believe policies designed to protect the environment are more likely to help rather than hurt the economy,” said SCRI Director Don Levy. “Just under 60 percent say that we are at the point of no return and if our government, businesses and population don’t actively address the threats to our environment, we will do irreparable damage to our planet.”

In nearly every category, more female respondents said they were very concerned about pollution and climate-changing factors. Sixty-nine percent of female respondents said they were very concerned about water pollution, compared with 58 percent of male respondents. Some 62 percent of female respondents said they were very concerned about climate change, compared with 51 percent of males. And 54 percent of women said they were very concerned about waste disposal, compared with 44 percent of men.

While 70 percent of New Yorkers very often recycle waste including paper, cardboard and plastic and 69 percent very often use reusable bags, fewer than half very often conserve electricity by lessening use, try to conserve water or use reusable beverage containers. Majorities engage in each of those conservation measures at least sometimes, and a majority at least sometimes also cut back on the amount of computer paper that they use, and use forms of transportation that could include public transportation, carpooling, walking or biking in order to reduce auto emissions.

“While Democrats overwhelmingly support pro-environmental policies, believe those policies will spur economic activity and think failing to protect the environment will lead to irreversible harm, Republicans disagree,” Levy said. “Not only does a majority of Republicans think that pro-environmental policies will hurt the economy, but nearly two-thirds despite supporting efforts to protect clean water and air, say that we’re doing as much as we should and doing too much is too expensive for us and our nation.”

When it comes to environmental policies, Levy added, majorities of New Yorkers support making our cities more pedestrian-friendly, promoting the widespread use of electric cars, having New York produce 100 percent of its electricity with zero emissions by 2040 and the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Accords.

“A small majority even supports encouraging New Yorkers to move toward a more plant-based diet,” Levy noted.

A new Gallup poll shows that four in 10 Americans consider themselves environmentalists. That is down considerably from the 78 percent who called themselves environmentalists in 1991. A decline has been seen across the board from Republicans, Democrats and independents, the poll found, and today 50 percent of Democrats, 44 percent of independents and 24 percent of Republicans think of themselves that way.

Environmentalists differ most from non-environmentalists in the level of concern about global warming and climate change, the poll found, with 63 percent of environmentalists and 29 percent of non-environmentalists worrying “a great deal” about the issue.

Some 70 percent of environmentalists say the U.S. is doing too little to protect the environment, compared with 46 percent of non-environmentalists. Nearly three-quarters of environmentalists think the effects of global warming already have begun to happen, while 50 percent of non-environmentalists feel the same way.

In a separate poll, Gallup found that roughly 70 percent of U.S. workers say that a company’s environmental record matters to some degree in whether or not they would take a job with that company. Nearly one-quarter of those say it is a major factor in their decision to work for a company.

U.S. workers who identify as Democrats are the subgroup most likely to say a company’s environmental record is a major factor in taking a job. Women also are a bit more inclined than men to prioritize environmental records when looking for work.

“If Americans become more likely to perceive climate change as a pressing issue, employers who do not have a strong record on protecting the environment may have a harder time finding employees,” Gallup’s researchers noted.

In a recent ranking of the nation’s “most sustainable cities,” Lawnstarter, a startup lawn care service with locations here and in dozens of locations nationwide, ranked Rochester sixth, behind San Francisco, Boston, Sacramento, Calif., Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

Key factors in Rochester’s high rating include:
• Third in the number of incentives and policies supporting renewables and energy efficiency
• Seventh for its alternative-fuel stations per 100,000 residents
• 29th for its median air quality index where a lower value equates to better quality
• 28th in its share of workers who walk, bike, carpool, or ride public transit to work
• Sixth for its farmers markets per 100,000 residents

Lawnstarter ranked 200 of the nation’s largest cities for the “Most Sustainable Cities in the U.S.”

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