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Drilling down into green data

Colorado Springs ranked relatively strong in a recent poll as far as green practices.

An online article last week by the Daily Beast that ranked Colorado Springs residents as being more green-conscious than those in Denver, raised some eyebrows in environmental circles.

Marilee Utter, principal of the Denver-based consulting firm Citiventure Associates, which specializes in land-use, transit-oriented sites and other sustainability efforts, called the findings “crazy,” for example.

She and others were mystified why Boulder did not make the list. The obvious reason – that its population is slightly below 100,000, the minimum number of people to be included in the ranking – turned out not to be correct.

After last week’s article in InsideRealEstateNews, John Fetto, a senior marketing manager at conumser-research firm  Experian Simmons that supplied some of the data to the Daily Beast article, returned a call to me.

It turns out that the Daily Beast, which last year merged with Newsweek, did not use the traditional definitions of metropolitan statistical areas in its ranking of the 25 greenest cities in the country.

Rather than using U.S. Census data, for example, it used what are known as Designated Market Areas. DMAs are a group of counties that make up a particular television area, as defined by the Nielsen Market Research Co.

DMAs are sprawling

“Basically, a DMA is a geographic area where you get your local TV news from,” Fetto explained.

The Denver DMA encompasses 67 counties – three more than in the entire state of Colorado. That is because it picks up some counties in Wyoming and Nebraska, although it does not include every county in Colorado.

At my request, Fetto broke out the results of a survey for Denver-area counties, as well as El Paso County, where Colorado Springs is located.

Experian Simmons polled people on their attitudes and behavior regarding green practices.

Greens vs Browns

Experian Simmons segmented respondents into what it called “Behavioral Greens,” and “True Browns.” The True Browns are the antithesis of those who make a concerted effort into sustainability. Indeed, nationally, there has been a growing backlash against tree-huggers. Across the country, the number of negative attitudes toward environmental issues has grown to 15 percent of the adult population from 13 percent in 2007, according to Fetto.

The Daily Beast re-named the categories as those who were eco-conscious and those who were not. It also rated areas based on those taking public transportation and a willingness to recycle. Experian Simmons did not supply all of the data.

Nationally, 35 percent of the U.S. population can be classified as Behavioral Greens, according to Fetto.

Boulder greenest of them all – at least in Denver DMA

In the Denver-area, only Boulder County topped that, with 37 percent. “Boulder is definitely a greener part of the Denver DMA,” Fetto said.

And El Paso County topped Denver, with 34 percent of the adult population describing themselves as Behavioral Greens compared with 30 percent in Denver.

However, El Paso County also had more True Browns, with 21 percent, compared with 16 percent in Denver.

Fetto noted that Colorado Springs’ residents are 40 percent more likely than the average U.S. adult to be True Browns.

“This was just one of the four factors used by the Daily Beast to determine the greenest markets, so obviously the other three outweighed the over-concentration of True Browns,” Fetto said. “This was something we commonly saw in the data.”

Little middle ground

He said that many markets “had higher than average concentrations of people in both the Behavioral Green and True Brown camps, indicating a polarization of attitudes with lower concentrations of people in the middle.”

Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., had never heard of the Daily Beast prior to the article. But after speaking to InsideRealEstateNews, where he learned the ranking of Colorado Springs, his group posted a link to the Daily Beast article on its website. The link was on the front page at first, but now can be found on the site from its News tab.

“I think it is interesting,” Kazmierski said. “I will do some research to see if it is a credible source,” he said before it was posted on its website.

Living the green

The Daily Beast ranked Colorado Springs No. 18, while Denver came at No. 20. Grand Junction was 21.

“We put a lot of effort, as a region, into sustainability and we are growing our commitment to renewable energy sources,” Kazmierski said. “We see clean-tech as a growth industry. As far as green industry goes, we are trying to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.”

And it’s not just private industry, but Uncle Sam, too.

“Fort Carson has made a huge commitment to solar and the Air Force Academy is moving forward on sustainability and energy conservation methods in a big way.”

CountyAdult PopulationBehavioral GreensTrue BrownsMake recycling effort
Denver455,45330%16%63%
El Paso439,50434%21%65%
Arapahoe409,74932%16%65%
Jefferson402,75833%16%67%
Adams307,52130%15%63%
Larimer230,29633%18%69%
Boulder226,38837%17%69%
Douglas200,66632%17%71%
Weld180,33033%14%67%
Broomfield41,49831%14%69%
Source: Experian Simmons