Men or Women – Which Gender is More Eco-friendly?

Pretty soon, I’ll be putting up a special post about raising green boys. Obviously I think all kids should be raised with eco-friendly values and habits – not just boys. However, a massive amount of research shows that in the end, females are much more eco-friendly than males, which to me says that raising green boys presents some unique challenges for parents.

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*Note before you blast me with comments about how I’m so darn sexist, note that the above statement is not based on personal research, but actual studies. However, if you want to get personal, most of the more eco-friendly folks I’ve personally met are women. Not across the board, but women make up a vast majority of the green people I’ve met. Mothers not dads I’ve met are almost always the parent discussing green issues with the kids. I see more women with reusable bags and water bottle and more women buying green cleaners.

Plus, on green forums, blogs and in other media outlets, you’ll also usually see more women than men participating. This could be because women are more likely to be vocal about green issues though. Still, just to be clear, I don’t think men can’t be as eco-friendly as women, so there’s no reason to freak.

How boys are greener:

In some ways boys shine when it comes to green living. For example, many studies show that boys spend more time playing outside than girls and are given more independence by parents to do so than girls. This doesn’t change in adulthood. A report by The Outdoor Foundation (pdf) shows that males from birth to age 45+ spend more time engaging in active outdoor activities. In fact only research focused on elderly individuals shows that women are as active outside as men (come on ladies!). Because hanging out in nature is a major prerequisite for wanting to protect the environment, boys score a point here.

Males also take slightly shorter showers, but not by much.

In most cases females win when it comes to green living. For example…

  • Women are more likely to buy green products and recycle – even as they age, with more older women than men saying that the recycle bin is the most useful household item.
  • Men are twice as likely as women to eat meat and women are far more likely to purchase organic food.
  • It’s not just how the genders act either. When it comes to setting green goals (pdf), women have higher expectations for themselves. 52% of females want to recycle more, while just 33% of males do. 51% of women want to incorporate reusables into their world, like cloth grocery bags, but just 30% of men do.  And, while just 32% of men want to reduce their home’s energy use, 48% of women have this goal. This boils down to the fact that women tend to carry more guilt about everything, but that includes green issues.
  • Perhaps of most importance is that women still spend a significantly larger amount of time raising kids then men – even when both parents have full time jobs. When men do parent, they tend to spend more time doing active stuff (which is good) or recreational stuff like movies, but they don’t bring up green or health issues with their kids as much as moms do. Visit any natural parenting forum and it’s clear that women are far more concerned with raising healthy, green kids than dads are. This may go back to simple gender brain chemistry – according to a 2003 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “Women’s higher levels of empathy, altruism, and personal responsibility make them more interested in environmentalism as a way to protect not only themselves and their families, but also others.” If empathy is indeed the key to sustainable living, women come out ahead as most research shows that while both genders CAN express empathy, women are more likely to do so.

In your experience which is the more eco-friendly gender? Leave a comment below – and be honest. 

Coming up soon, tips for parents about how to level the green playing field, no matter if you’re raising boys or girls.

Image by kikashi

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  1. Laura says

    While this is only a small piece of green living, men don’t generally consume nearly the amopunt of personal care products as women. Less makeup/hair products/whatever = less packaging and less stuff in general. Also, the men I know tend to have less preference for what types of personal care prducts they use. While my husband wouldn’t necessarily buy an eco-friendly shampoo on his own, if I buy one he’s ok using it as opposed to being loyal to a conventional brand. I know many women who are very brand loyal and if their brands happen to be conventional that’s that. You’re points are all good, just wanted to give another point or two to the men!

  2. Jennifer Chait says

    Yeah, I would assume many men win points for their lack of cosmetics on the shelf. It’s funny though, because most guys I know are super into soap and other body care, and most don’t try to go green in that respect. However, in sheer numbers, I’m sure women use more chemicals than men overall due to cosmetics and body care. My boyfriend is pretty good actually – he’s into lush in reusable containers :)

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