Green builders and product manufacturers looking to win street cred for their eco-friendly ways may be wise to allocate a bigger chunk of their marketing budgets toward media outreach and customer service, as opposed to paid advertising. At least that's the suggestion of a recent survey of more than 6,000 Web users by the online ad agency Burst Media.
 
According to the study findings, consumers rely most on news stories (43.7%) for information about green initiatives and products, followed by word-of-mouth referrals from friends and family (35.2%), and personal research (33.9%). Only 26.7 percent of respondents cited advertising as a leading source of green information, suggesting that skepticism over greenwashing is prevalent.

While consumer recall of green advertising messages proved exceptionally high (four out of five respondents remembered having seen or heard a green ad in the past three months), trust in green claims was another story. One in five (22.7%) respondents said they "seldom" or "never" believe green advertising claims; two-thirds (65.3%) said they only believe such claims "sometimes."

Although the study did not specifically delve into consumer attitudes toward green building, per se, its findings seem to underscore the importance of third-party endorsements--be they from the press, from third-party green certifications, or from other satisfied customers-in obtaining credibility in the green landscape.

Confusion over what truly constitutes "green" is no doubt a factor. While living sustainably is a goal of many, it is one that's so far been attained by only a few, the study found. Four out of five (81.9%) respondents reported having adopted some level of green activity into their lives (these individuals were categorized as "aspirationally green") while only 5.2 percent considered themselves "completely green." Roughly 13 percent of participants said they were not green at all.