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The Greening of the U.S. Consumer

Consumers today are reducing their carbon footprint and their spending. The trend could offset the government's stimulus plans
With 80,000 consumer and business drivers around the world, Zipcars offers commuters an eco-friendly alternative to car ownership.
With 80,000 consumer and business drivers around the world, Zipcars offers commuters an eco-friendly alternative to car ownership. Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Lisa Goodson, a 38-year-old mother of three children 5 and under, reuses printer paper by flipping every sheet over when she's done using one side. She wears a sweatshirt to keep warm during the day when she dials down the heat in her house in Greenville, S.C. These small gestures are part of Goodson's personal crusade to reduce her carbon footprint. "I think twice before buying anything for the kids, and I've even talked to my parents about holding back on gifts," says Goodson, who thinks her house is already loaded up with too much stuff and has lately been cleaning out toy boxes and donating toys to charity.

Goodson is part of a small, but growing, tide of consumers who have started shifting their spending patterns because of their concern about global warming. They want to contribute in any way they can to help reduce greenhouse gases. This kind of consumer behavior is starting to pick up steam nationwide. Consumers are choosing to drink tap water over bottled water, carrying reusable bags into supermarkets and eschewing plastic grocery bags, and buying locally produced, in-season foods, rather than purchasing fruits and vegetables that have traveled thousands of miles on carbon-emitting trucks.