39% of Americans feel 'green guilt' for wasting food, a much higher number than letting the sink run while they brush their teeth or not buying those stupid low-flow toilets.

The 2012 Eco Pulse results are in.  So look for the latest marketing campaigns from environmental activism corporations soon.

Why does anyone do surveys on what people feel guilty about rather than what people care about?  They do it to sell it to environmental groups and no environmental group raises money on a 'things are great' platform, they raise money by telling you how much you are a parasite for Gaia. The Eco Pulse survey tells marketers at Greenpeace, Sierra Club, etc. what your weak points are.  

And environmental guilt - sorry, 'new avenues for engaging the public in sustainability efforts' - is Big Business.  Even the survey is Big Business. If you want to read the full Eco Pulse results created by the Shelton Group, it will cost you $4,500. And they only talked to 1,013 people so why charge a fortune for the results?  Hey, don't ask that question.  Do you hate the Earth or something?

Fertilizers?  Go kick rocks, activists, the science is in and people feel no guilt at all. Light bulbs? Ditto. Banning incandescents was another in a giant list of things for social authoritarian progressives to outlaw, but people resented it and don't like that they will need to call in a Haz-Mat team if they break one of those ugly CFL bulbs. So they feel no guilt at all about the old bulbs they began hoarding.

Middle class people felt the most guilt, the survey found.  Rich people, not so much.  Ditto for poor people. Rich people I can understand.  They are buying organic food and hybrid cars so they have already done their part for the planet.  If the food rots, they can ship it to poor peoples' yards and call it compost. Poor people, of course, can't afford to eat organic food, they eat at Burger King and don't let it go to waste, nor do they feel guilty about the wrapper - it's recyclable! Plus, they know if they are throwing away that average of $600 a year in food they are not actually poor.

You, sir, are the problem and should feel guilty.  Because you wear a tie, which means you are not poor but not so rich you don't feel guilty about ruining the planet. Image: Shutterstock.com

Basically, there is a hierarchy of needs.  You can't afford to care about the planet if you can't afford food or shelter.  This empathy and understanding is what the anti-science groups behind movements like Prop 37 don't understand; not everyone lives in an agricultural Mecca like California.  Organic farming limitations brought forth concepts like worrying over The Population Bomb in the 1960s.  What prevented mass starvation, food wars and the plot of Soylent Green was food science; farmers were able to grow more food while dematerializing' - they used less land than ever and the places where modern agriculture took root led to huge increases in wealth among the poorest, which led to more education and culture.  People who are against that are basically arguing that the poorest people should be permanently ghetto-ized or be stuck as modern feudal Serfs working for giant organic corporations as sharecroppers.

Not many people were concerned about wasting water, 6%, and why should they be?  They have to pay for the water and they probably know most water in America is consumed by agriculture, not flushing toilets or brushing teeth. Only 9% are concerned about their clothes dryers.  If they have bought one recently, it likely said "Energy Star", which means they are more angry than guilty.  I have one and it takes a lot longer to dry clothes.  What is the opposite of an Energy Star rated dryer?  Because that is the one I want to buy next. Or I can buy one 25 years old that won't take twice as long to dry my pants.

Environmental fundraising groups could focus on unplugging chargers and electronics, since 22% feel guilty about not doing that, but other than assuaging some liberal guilt it won't do much for the planet. On an individual level, Americans are pretty terrific about conserving electricity, the average home in the U.S. only uses about 960kWh per month, less than Canada and half a dozen other nations despite the average American home being larger - and Republicans and Democrats and global warming believers and skeptics alike all conserve electricity about the same.

Poor people are the best about conservation so that and money are obvious reasons why they are not targeted for fundraising. When I was a kid, my parents wanted lights shut off every time we left the room but even as a teenager I knew the start-up energy draw made the crossover threshold about 5 minutes - if you were going to be gone 5 minutes or more it made sense to shut them off.  But with the new CFLs activists insist are better, any wasted electricity might be a good investment.  The 25 kHz electric ballasts CFLs use can't be heard by humans but that humming may be making your pets insane.

Generally, there is a golden rule of conservation and therefore conservation fundraising - less consumption is better, yet only if it's for someone else - and the people who do the most consuming don't mind tithing to make the guilt go away.