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Who’s more environmentally friendly – men or women?

A new study finds a link between eco-friendly behaviour and perceived femininity.
A new study finds a link between eco-friendly behaviour and perceived femininity. Her Images/Getty Images

Men are less eco-friendly than women because men consider the act to be “unmanly,” a new study says.

The research, conducted by Scientific American, involved 2,000 American and Chinese participants and involved seven experiments in an effort to find a link between eco-friendliness and perceptions of femininity.

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And what they found was that men were worried that practising eco-friendlier lives would make them look more feminine.

“It’s not that men don’t care about the environment,” the study said. “But they also tend to want to feel macho, and they worry that eco-friendly behaviours might brand them as feminine.”

But men were not the only ones guilty of having this perception – it was found that some women do as well.

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“Due to this ‘green-feminine stereotype,’ both men and women judged eco-friendly products, behaviours and consumers are more feminine than their non-green counterparts,” the study outlined.

However, men would go as far as actively choosing to buy non-green versions of products to avoid feeling feminine.

They found this out by showing male participants a pink gift card with a floral design. Researchers then asked the men to imagine using the card to buy three products (a lamp, backpack and batteries). This was the “threat” to their masculinity.

Compared to the men who were shown a standard gift card, the “threatened men” were more likely to choose the non-green versions of each product.

“The idea that emasculated men try to re-assert their masculinity through non-environmentally-friendly choices suggests that in addition to littering, wasting water or using too much electricity, one could harm the environment merely by making men feel feminine,” researchers wrote.

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Researchers say they hope their research helps pro-environmental marketers utilize their findings in hopes to better refine their marketing strategies towards men.

First, they say, eco-friendly marketing messages and materials can be designed to affirm men’s masculinity and give them the confidence to overcome their fears of judgment. Second, products and organizations can be marketed as more masculine by changing fonts, colours, words and the images used in the branding.

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Other studies throughout the years have also looked into how gender impacts one’s attitude towards being green.

One 2000 study by Behrend College found that women tend to litter less than their male counterparts.

Another study from that same year by researchers at California State University also revealed that women are more likely to recycle than men.

And in 2010, the Swedish Defence Research Agency concluded that women overall left smaller carbon footprints.

This, researchers at George Mason University say, may be due to personality differences – for example, women’s practice of altruism (their selfless concerns for others) may be the driving force of the difference between men and women’s practice of green behaviour.

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