A new 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. “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,” says Suzanne Shelton, whose Knoxville, Tenn., firm, Shelton Group, conducted the study.
The “Green Living Pulse,” which polled 1,007 U.S. consumers who at least occasionally buy green products, uncovered six myths about green buyers:
Myth 1: Green consumers’ top concern is the environment. The economy is No. 1 (with 59% calling it their top concern), while 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, please check any of the following statements you think are true.” Almost half 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.
Myth 6: If buyers just knew the facts they’d make greener choices. Individuals who answered all of the science-related questions correctly did report participating in a significantly higher average number of green activities; 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.
Its important to target green messages appropriately, Shelton advises. “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.” —J.G.