Once again, Canadians rank almost at the bottom of the National Geographic Society's annual survey on consumer behaviors that impact the environment.

Among consumers in 17 countries in the "Greendex" survey, Canadians came in second last, trailing slightly behind consumers in the United States. That's despite many improvements average Canadian consumers have made in the last year to "go green."

Indians scored the highest overall ranking, getting a Greendex score of 59.5. Brazilians came in second at 57.3. U.S. consumers had the lowest score at 43.7, with Canadians second-worst at 47.5.

The "Greendex" ranks consumers in 17 countries around the world according to the impact of their choices in such areas as housing, transportation, food and consumer goods.

About 17,000 consumers were polled online (1,000 in each country) by international polling firm GlobeScan, and earned a score out of 100, reflecting the environmental impact of their consumption patterns.

Consumption was determined both by the choices consumers actively made -- such as repairing rather than replacing items, choosing green products rather than environmentally unfriendly ones -- and choices that are controlled more by their circumstances, such as the climate they live in or the availability of public transport.

Canada's ranking suffered in large part due to our big homes. But the report also says Canadians, Russians and Argentineans are "more likely than others to have sealed drafts in their homes, installed thermal windows, or installed or upgraded insulation this past year."

Our perpetual love affair with large cars and SUVs and resistance to use public transit also pulled our ranking down. Canadians ranked among the lowest in public transit use, with just 22 per cent saying they use it at least once a week.

"Car and truck ownership is above the 17-country average (86 per cent compared with 74 per cent) and, of those who drive, Canadians are among the most likely to drive large vehicles," the survey found.

"Canadians have the third highest rate of driving alone most days (56 per cent)."

Consumers in developing countries, in contrast, tend to live closer to work and use more environmentally friendly transportation, such as walking, cycling, and public transportation.

On the food sub-index, Canadian consumers ranked ninth. While we reported above average beef consumption (37 per cent consume beef several times a week), that was mitigated somewhat by high levels of eating locally grown foods (again, 37 per cent do that several times a week). Also, Canadians are above-average in their consumption of fruits and vegetables, and well below average in their use of bottled water.

The survey found that while environmental concerns were motivators in consumers adopting more environmentally sustainable behavior over the past year, a bigger motivator was cost.

Greendex 2009 Overall Scores (2008 scores in brackets)

  1. Indians 59.5 (58.0)
  2. Brazilians 57.3  (58.6)
  3. Chinese 56.7 (55.2)
  4. Argentineans 54.7  (NA)
  5. South Koreans 54.6  (NA)
  6. Mexicans 53.8  (52.7)
  7. Hungarians 53.3  (51.7)
  8. Russians 52.0  (51.1)
  9. Spanish 51.4  (48.0)
  10. Germans 51.1  (48.1)
  11. Swedes 51.1  (NA)
  12. Australians 50.5 (47.8)
  13. French 49.5  (46.5)
  14. British 49.4  (48.2)
  15. Japanese 49.3  (47.4)
  16. Canadians 47.5 (46.3)
  17. Americans 43.7  (42.4)