Creating 'Accidental Environmentalists' in America: Reconsidering Why Green Initiatives Have Fallen Flat

71 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2014

See all articles by Julia Johnson

Julia Johnson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: April 1, 2014


This article explores the reasons why previous attempts at 'green' legislation in the United States have not been successful and focuses upon market-level incentives that drive consumer willingness to engage in environmentally-friendly behaviors. Despite flagrant evidence decrying the need for a rapid transition into a 'sustainable economy,' America’s decisively anti-environmentalist policies and infrastructure – coupled with tepid consumer demand for green purchases – continue to hinder an appropriate response. Still, environmental decision-making has failed to assimilate into the mainstream not because Americans are eager to destroy their homes and their futures, but because current sustainability initiatives are incongruent with the pragmatic, short-term concerns of the working populace. In order to create a more sustainable America, economic and environmental considerations must inter-mesh. To do so, incentives to purchase 'green' consumer products and transition to renewables should become more consumer-centric and should assimilate into the capitalist structure that pervades contemporary American society. These measures will help the average American to adopt a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle and incorporate ‘greener’ choices in their day-to-day lives.

This article considers the application and limitations associated with three areas implicated in offsetting environmental harms, including (1) renewables, (2) infrastructure and transportation, and (3) consumer purchases of green products retailed at mainstream stores. First, a brief review of the U.S.’s renewables framework will be provided, including an overview of certain mandates and production incentives supporting these products; infrastructure issues will be considered as part of this framework. The factors affecting consumer purchases for those items for which a ‘green’ substitute may be available will then be explored. Second, the shortcomings of the U.S.’s current policy initiatives will be elucidated, incorporating both consumer-centric and market considerations. Lastly, several recommendations will be suggested in hopes of providing an avenue for needed reforms.

Keywords: Climate Change, Environmental Law, Regulatory

JEL Classification: Q00

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Julia, Creating 'Accidental Environmentalists' in America: Reconsidering Why Green Initiatives Have Fallen Flat (April 1, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Julia Johnson (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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