Conservation, Education, Green, News

Metro Detroiters support going green … sort of, survey says


When it comes to the environment a little can go a long way. That seems to be the mindset of metro Detroiters.

Things as simple as recycling, adjusting the thermostat or turning off a light to save energy and help the planet are things Southeast Michigan residents not only agree with, but say they do. So says a public opinion survey commissioned by the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS).


The survey shed light on the ways that metro Detroiters view the environment. For example:

  • Most people surveyed believe they can impact the environment, even in minor ways. Most take steps like turning off a light when they leave a room or recycling. However, when it came to larger actions like choosing food with the environment in mind or carpooling, most do not comply. Not many shop at local farmer’s market or buy organic food.
  • Most support pro-green government policies, think stricter rules are needed and don’t believe excessive regulations are hurting the economy. However, most said a politician’s stand on the environment would not influence their vote and few have recently donated to an environmental group.
  • The majority of those surveyed support teaching conservation education in K-12.
  • Nature is a common destination during free time. Most said they visited lakes or participated in outdoor activities at least once in the past two years. Slightly fewer have been to a zoo or and aquarium.
  • Those who visit the zoo or are engage in the outdoor activities are parents, residents in their 30s and those who make at least $75,000 a year.
  • Those who belong to the zoo seem to be more environmentally conscience than the population at large.
  • Democrats lean the strongest to greener behavior.

The “green literacy” survey was done to set a benchmark to better gage environmental views in metro Detroit. The poll was taken between June 10-24 of this year and involved 1,000 adults 18 and over in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties.

Here are some details with all the facts and figures.


Many surveyed put their money where their mouth in practices like recycling at home, which 8 out of ten people claim to do regularly. When it came to acts like simply shutting off a light when they left a room, 78 percent not only did it, but did it almost every time.  About half of the area residents say they dial their thermostat down to save energy. However, only 37 percent of those 18-29 turn it down while 61 percent of those over 50 do so.

Also, 78 percent said they reuse plastic bottles or food containers all or some of the time.

When they were asked about turning off or unplugging computers or other electronic equipment 37 percent said they do it most of the time.

However, when larger commitments are needed like choosing their food with the environment in mind, carpooling or biking to work, the number drops off to 33 percent, with only 9 percent daily. (Perhaps the new bike lanes and bike sharing initiatives will grow that number in downtown Detroit.)

About one in four say they take a reusable bag to the grocery store or other stores. Twelve percent of the area residents report shopping mostly at a farmer’s market rather than a larger grocery store and 10 percent buy organic foods most of the time.


The study also showed strong support for environmentally friendly public policies.  The addition of bottled water to the Michigan bottle return requirements and environmental and conservation lessons on all levels in public schools received support from 8 out of 10 people. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed support requiring all elementary, middle and high schools to institute recycling programs.

Eight-one percent of those surveyed agreed there needs to be stronger environmental regulations to stop companies from creating pollution and greenhouse gases. Only a little more than one-fourth of those surveyed thought that there were too many regulations on companies when it came to green attitudes, with a mere 14 percent who strongly agreed with the statement.

Only two in 10 have taken part in an environmental efforts and only 25 percent have donated to a environmental group in the past two years.

Furthermore, only 23 percent did not see water pollution as a risk to their health and 24 percent did not view small changes like recycling or turning off lights as important to protecting the environment.

“Our goal is to help the community understand the environment and how humans affect it,” said Ron Kagan, Detroit Zoological Society executive director and CEO. “We are also mindful of the importance of convening other educational and environmental leaders in collaborations that ultimately help people help nature.”

To view the survey in its entirety, visit


In addition to the DZS, the “green literacy” partnership includes Clinton River Watershed Council,  DTE Energy, Lawrence Technological University, The Nature Conservancy, Wayne State University and Kurt R. Metzger, mayor of Pleasant Ridge and director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit, among others.

This survey was part of the Detroit Zoological Society’s continued effort to improve the practices at the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Zoo and increase green literacy.

Called the DZS Greenprint, it also includes the discounting bottled water sales and building the nation’s first biodigester. The zoo has been awarded the 2015 Green Award by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

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