The world's consumers are paying more attention to their impact on the environment, encouraged in part by the economic crisis and the need to save on energy costs, according to a report.
The National Geographic Society and the international polling firm GlobeScan surveyed 17,000 consumers in 17 countries -- up from 14 countries last year -- and evaluated consumer behavior in 65 areas related to housing, transportation, food and consumer goods.
India, Brazil and China got the highest marks in the 2009 Greendex for environmentally positive consumer patterns, while US and Canadian consumers scored lowest.
"Consumers registering the best year-on-year improvement in environmentally sustainable consumer behavior are the Spanish, Germans, French and Australians, while Russians and Mexicans show the smallest increase," the National Geographic said in a statement.
The economic crisis has played an important role in modifying behavior in most countries, the authors of the report said.
"The economic upheaval appears to have had a silver lining for the environment," said Terry Garcia, National Geographic's executive vice president, Mission Programs.
"But will positive behavior changes survive when an economic recovery starts?
"We hope the green behaviors that consumers are adopting now to cut costs will become part of their permanent lifestyles and that environmental concerns will become increasingly important for consumers around the globe."
Eighty percent of those polled said that the main reason behind their drop in energy consumption was to save money.
Fifty-five percent said they were "very concerned" about environmental problems, while 14 percent said they had no concerns at all. Six out of every 10 people polled believe that they should consume less to preserve the environment for future generations.
Majorities in Argentina, Mexico, South Korea and China said that high fuel prices motivated them to change their transportation habits permanently.
"Both the powerful inertia of energy-intensive countries and the growing consumerism in large, rapidly developing economies present a challenge to governments and industry," said Lloyd Hetherington, CEO of GlobeScan.
"It is critical for both to create more sustainable choices for consumers across the full spectrum of consuming behavior," he said.
The survey consulted people in Germany, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, South Korea, Spain, the United States, France, Britain, Hungary, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia and Sweden.