Forget Saving the Planet: Green Consumers Out to Save Money

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Forget Saving the Planet: Green Consumers Out to Save Money

By Alex Palmer - 08/26/2009
Green consumers are more concerned about saving money than saving the planet, according to new research from the Shelton Group, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based advertising agency. The study found that while 59 percent of green consumers identify the economy as their top concern in making purchases, a mere 8 percent consider the environment.

According to the report, 77 percent of the population occasionally buys green products, but these green consumers form a varied group. While 26 percent said they would reduce energy consumption “to lessen my impact on the environment,” a whopping 73 percent said they did so “to reduce my bills/control my costs.”

Most respondents (54 percent) said they try to balance energy conservation and their personal comfort, while 10 percent said they always choose their comfort over energy conservation. The survey pulled from Earthsense data regarding 1,000 U.S. consumers who buy green products at least occasionally.

The results break from the eco-conscious stereotypes often associated with green shoppers, said Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of the Shelton Group. “It’s the guy who buys one compact fluorescent light bulb a year all the way out to the girl in her Birkenstocks living in a yurt in Idaho.”

What exactly defines “green” plays a significant role in how the product appeals to consumers. For example, the health benefits of organic fruits and vegetables interest consumers for different reasons from those of consumers shopping for low-flow showerheads. While 72 percent of respondents found the idea of owning or renting an “energy-efficient home” appealing, only 47 percent felt the same about a “green home.”

Far from being fully informed eco-advocates, the respondents showed only a modest understanding of environmental issues, with 21 percent believing that “natural” is a regulated term and only 38 percent correctly identifying the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the regulating body for determining what’s “organic.”

Shelton believes this variety of green consumers will only be engaged by a variety of marketing approaches. “We’re still in that sort of cheeky, assumptive, one-size-fits-all approach to green marketing, but we need to do with green advertising what we’ve done with every other kind of advertising,” she said. “We need to really understand that there are a bunch of different types of green consumers, and they’re all motivated by different things and they’re all buying different stuff. We’ve got to take them on a one-to-one basis and message to them accordingly.”