6 Myths of Green Consumers

New study shatters stereotypes of what motivates buyers.

A new national study of green consumers contradicts several long-held stereotypes about them: The environment is not their top concern, their kids are not influencing them to be green, and while many know what they should do to save the planet, they often don’t do it. As a result, marketing messages aimed at this group often fall on deaf ears, says Suzanne Shelton, whose Knoxville, Tenn., firm, Shelton Group, conducted the study.

“Most green advertising is created as if there’s one pool of green consumers and they’re all motivated by ‘Save the planet!’ messaging,” Shelton says. “We need a revolution in this thinking. Not all green consumers are the same, they’re not all motivated by the same messages, and they’re not all inclined to buy only green products.”

Released Aug. 21, the Green Living Pulse study polled 1,007 U.S. consumers who at least occasionally buy green products (77% of the population) and found there is no typical “green consumer.” The study discovered six myths about this group:

Myth 1: Green consumers’ top concern is the environment.

When asked to identify their top concern, the economy, by far, is No. 1 (with 59% calling it their top concern) and the environment falls far behind (8%).

Myth 2: Green consumers’ main motivation when reducing their energy use is to save the planet.

When asked the most important reason to reduce energy consumption, 73% chose “to reduce my bills/control costs” and only 26% chose “to lessen my impact on the environment.”

Myth 3: Green consumers are all-knowledgeable about environmental issues.

For example, the survey asked, “From what you have read or heard about CO2 (carbon dioxide), please place a check beside any of the following statements you think are true.” Almost half (49%) chose the incorrect answer, “It depletes the ozone layer.”

Myth 4: Green consumers fall into a simple demographic profile.

While the study detected some demographic tendencies, it found that green consumers aren’t easily defined by their age, income, or ethnicity.

Myth 5: Children play a big part in influencing their parents to be green.

Only 20% of respondents with children said their kids encouraged them to be greener by, for example, promoting recycling and turning off lights.

Myth 6: If buyers just knew the facts they’d make greener choices.

The study showed that knowledge does not always lead to eco-conscious behavior. Individuals who answered all of the science-related questions correctly did report participating in a significantly higher average number of green activities, such as driving a fuel-efficient car or lowering their thermostat during the winter; however, the 25- to 34-year-old age group consistently answered the questions correctly, yet, on average, this group’s green activity levels were lower than those of older respondents. “Because green consumers are being stereotyped, and these myths we tested are embraced by marketers as facts, many green messages are falling on deaf ears,” Shelton says. “If these messages were better targeted, more people would be buying green products, conserving electricity, and doing more to save the planet.”

Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor Online for EcoHome.

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