Pew Research's Drew Desilver takes a look at what changes Americans have made in reaction to global climate change. Although two-thirds of respondents in a recent survey say lifestyle changes are needed, data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) paints a mixed picture.
From 1993 to 2009, the average American household cut home heating by one-third and water heating by 16%, but steadily increased energy usage for other appliances, electronics, and lighting, according to data compiled by EPA.
Answering the call from EPA to purchase low-greenhouse gas vehicles, Americans have made improvement in overall fuel economy, as this October's sales-weighted average for new vehicles was up 24.4% from eight years ago. However, average fuel economy has been mostly flat for the past three years, compared to late 2000s and early 2010s. Moreover, American drivers show few sings of shifting away from fossil fuels, as more and more new vehicles still run on gas.
In terms of recycling, EPA's data indicates a sign of slowing. The overall recovery rate from recycling, composting, and other processes had strong growth between the 1980s and 90s, and steadily slowed through the 2000s. From 2010 to 2012, however, growth nearly plateaued.
A huge gap appears in different type of waste, when it comes to reusing and recycling. In 2012, over 60% of paper and paperboard was recovered, followed by 58% of yard trimmings. But less than 5% of food wast, and 8.8% of plastic waste was recycled or recovered in the same period of time.