Men Reject Eco-Friendly Behavior as ‘Unmanly’

Talk about toxic masculinity: Researchers have found that some men seem to be turned off by the green movement because they associate it with femininity. Published in in the “Journal of Consumer Research,” their study highlights the fact that men are awfully touchy about gender perception –which may explain the proliferation of bizarre “for him” and “for her” products, ranging from pens to ear plugs.

Researchers found that consumers of all genders tend to associate eco-conscious activities, like recycling or bringing a reusable grocery bag to the store, with femininity. They also discovered that when presented with more “masculine” logos and branding, men were more likely to donate to organizations and purchase products, while women didn’t seem to care one way or the other. Men avoided activities they associated with femininity in public — possibly fearing judgment — and private, suggesting a personal discomfort.

Now, of course, there are many eco-conscious men who wear their green flags on their sleeves, from men fighting to preserve open space to men working for environmental justice organizations to take polluters to court. But this study looked at broad social trends, raising some interesting questions about how and when ecologically-friendly activities became associated with femininity.

So how do we get the special male snowflakes in our lives to buy in to saving the planet?

In an opinion editorial for “Scientific American,” several of the researchers involved suggested that the green movement should rebrand itself to accommodate men. In the short term, moves like changing color schemes on logos and using “masculine” copy in advertisements could encourage men to come over to the green side.

But their analysis falls a little short, don’t you think?

This sounds like a problem of toxic masculinity, and reacting to it by making environmentally friendly products, organizations and activities less scary for men feels like a step backwards. Perhaps, instead of accommodating traditional beliefs about masculinity, we should be changing what masculinity looks like.

After all, there’s nothing inherently gendered about caring for the planet. Educating men from boyhood forward to have a greater respect for the Earth, and more interest in choosing sustainable products and activities, would be more beneficial in the long term.

2017 marked a year of exposing serial sexual harassers across a range of industries, and it sparked many conversations about toxic masculinity and what it’s like to live in a world that’s engineered for men’s comfort and preference. If this study shows us anything, it’s that continuing to live this way is damaging for everyone — for the Earth, for the women working with men who are anxious about their masculinity and for men themselves.

Maybe 2018 should be the year of affirming that there are lots of ways to be a man, including bringing canvas bags to the store, donating to organizations with logos that have flowers in them and collaborating with everyone to preserve the planet for future generations.

Photo Credit: Molly Adams/Flickr


Lesa D
Lesa D4 months ago

well of course they do... c'mon guys!

Treva Slark
Treva S5 months ago

For those here who write, "Baloney," I beg to differ.
Many older men I know, and many young men (my students) tend to "pooh-pooh" the concern with environmental issues. It may be because, as some of you have written, they are a bit insecure about their masculinity, and equate caring for the planet with a nurturing attitude, which is usually seen as "feminine" (though of course it's not an exclusive trait of females !!)

Richard A
Richard A5 months ago

I question where the researchers found their male subjects. This does not sound like or reflect the men that I know, many of which are hard-core, Harley riding, bikers.

Ron C
Ronald C5 months ago

Thank you for sharing. Your article was insightful.

Telica R
Telica R5 months ago

thanks for sharing

Ellie M
Ellie M5 months ago


Muff-Anne Y
Muff-Anne Y5 months ago


sharon b
sharon b5 months ago

I brought up my sons to respect the earth. But reality is the issue. If women don't care, enlightened men probably don't care, tailoring these things to the unenlightened may be a good idea for now.

Just Human
Just H5 months ago

Not this man. Taking care of mother Earth isn't unmanly.

Ruth S
Ruth S5 months ago