NEW YORK – More Americans are concerned about the environment, but an increasing number of them believe labeling food or other products as “organic” is an excuse to charge more money for those items, according to a new Harris Poll.

The poll found that Americans may not be prepared to pay a premium for organic products, as 59 percent of consumers surveyed agreed that labeling products organic is an excuse to charge more, according to Harris. Men were the most skeptical about organic, with 63 percent agreeing that labeling food or other products is just an excuse to charge more compared to 54 percent of women.

"What surprised us most was that while Americans are showing more concern for the environment, they aren't necessarily willing to pay more to do anything about it," said Mike de Vere, president of the Harris Poll. "While Americans feel better about the economy, many are wary of the 'greenwashing' concept that gives companies a chance to cash in on consumers who want to help the planet but are confused by all the eco-friendly jargon."

Consumers are feeling challenged to separate fact from fiction when it comes to environmentally friendly consumption habits, the Harris Poll found. For example, despite studies showing that organic meat and produce typically aren't nutritionally better than conventional varieties of the same products, 55 percent of Americans belief that organic foods are healthier than non-organic foods. Harris Poll also found that:

  • 41 percent of Americans think organic food tastes better and/or fresher than non-organic;  
  • Only 23 percent of Americans know what the term "dirty dozen" (The Environmental Working Group's annual list of foods consumers should always buy organic due to pesticide levels) means in regards to organic food; and
  • 48 percent of consumers think washing dishes by hand is more environmentally friendly than using the dishwasher, although a study from Scientists at the Univ. of Bonn, Germany found that the dishwasher uses only half the energy, one-sixth of the water, and less soap than hand-washing an identical set of dirty dishes.

The Harris Poll also revealed that Americans are divided on how easy or difficult it is to live an environmentally conscious lifestyle, with 49 percent saying it's difficult and 47 percent saying it's easy.

Eighty percent of Americans say they will seek out 'green' products, while only 30 percent say they are willing to pay more for those products. Also, 60 percent of Americans said they prefer to use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies because of the chemicals in conventional cleaning products.

Overall, efforts to incorporate environmentally conscious lifestyles seem to have leveled off, with 63 percent of Americans making the same amount of effort to be environmentally conscious as a year ago, up considerably from 51 percent in 2009, Harris Poll reported.