05/30/2008 07:00 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Green Are You?

Trying to be a greener consumer shouldn't be a competition, but sometimes it feels like one. Maybe you drive a hybrid car, so you're burning less gasoline than your neighbor with the conventional car. But your neighbor is a vegetarian, so she's not eating land-and-energy-consuming meats. Who's having a more positive impact?

Now there's a way to find out, or at least to approximate. It's the Greendex: a survey developed by our team at National Geographic along with GlobeScan, a Canadian research firm. It's part of a large-scale, long-term effort we've undertaken to track global consumer behavior and its impact on the environment over time. We began this year by surveying 1,000 consumers in each of 14 countries. As we repeat it year after year, we'll see long-term trends amidst changing economies, regulations, consumer choices, and products in the marketplace.

For Americans, there was a lot of bad news along with some definite glimmers of hope. All in all, we have the biggest houses, we drive the most, and we consume the most goods. Yet a significant portion of American consumers report such changes as driving alone less often than they did last year. And 45 percent say that making greener choices has become a personal priority, while only 16 percent say they're not trying to be greener at all.

We've launched a website that explores all of the Greendex results and the reasons why, say, Brazilian consumers had the best Greendex scores and the seemingly very green German consumers had more mixed results. Along with the total scores, there are scores (which vary widely by country) in each of the key consumer areas: Housing, Food, Transportation, and Goods.

Best of all, there's a modified Greendex survey that you can take yourself to see how you compare to the average Brazilian —