Green Consumer Poll Finds Economy Is their Top Concern

A Shelton Group study found that the environment is not the top concern of green consumers and, while many know what they should do to save the planet, they often don’t do it.

As a result, messages aimed at them often fall on deaf ears, said Suzanne Shelton, whose firm conducted the study.

One of four annual surveys conducted by the firm, this study polled 1,007 U.S. consumers who at least occasionally buy green products (77 percent of the population) and found there is no typical “green consumer.”

“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 said. “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.”

The study, called Green Living Pulse, got these responses:

  • What is your top concern? The economy (59 percent). Environment was only a top concern of 8 percent of those polled.
  • What's the most important reason to reduce energy consumption? Seventy-three percent chose “to reduce my bills/control costs” and only 26 percent chose “to lessen my impact on the environment.”
  • From what you have read or heard about carbon dioxide, please place a check beside any of the following statements you think are true. Almost half (49 percent) chose the incorrect answer, “It depletes the ozone layer.”

While the study detected some demographic tendencies, it found that green consumers aren’t easily defined by their age, income or ethnicity. They generally share one of two mindsets: The Engaged Green Mindset and the Mainstream Green Mindset. The former is marked by optimism, extroversion, and a propensity to try new things -- and is more likely to respond to themes of innovation and possibility. The latter is more pessimistic, introverted and apt to like things known and tried – responding to themes of security and reliability.

The study showed that knowledge does not always lead to behavior. Individuals who answered all of the science 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. However, the 25-34 age group consistently answered the questions correctly, yet, on average, their green activity levels were lower than those of older respondents.

The Shelton Group, founded in 1991, is an advertising agency located in Knoxville, Tenn., focused exclusively on motivating mainstream consumers to make sustainable choices.