You might think all the talk about green among consumers and the mainstream media, along with the growing focus on green home building, indicates an understanding of what green means. But according to Eco Pulse, a recently released consumer study, that just isn't the case for most homeowners and buyers.

The Eco Pulse study, conducted by energy and sustainability advertising agency the Shelton Group, reports that though 55% of consumers surveyed said having a green home is important, nearly 42% could not actually name a single feature of a green home: Solar power was cited by 28%, compact fluorescent light bulbs by 12%, energy-efficient or Energy Star appliances by 10%, and high-efficiency heating and cooling by only 2.5%. Clearly, there's a lot of homeowner education still needed.

According to the study, the consumers surveyed knew the green buzz words, but 56% could define the term "green" (as applied to homes and products) only generically as "eco-friendly" or "environmentally friendly." Eight percent couldn't define what green means at all. Another 8% defined green as "energy-efficient" and 5% defined the term as "natural or chemical-free."

Early in the study, the Shelton Group asked consumers to choose from a list of 17 home features the ones they thought were required to make a home green. Respondents checked an average of 10.4 features as necessary, showing a belief that creating a green home requires an all-or-nothing approach.

The study also reports the reasons consumers gave for purchasing a green home product, which tended toward financial impact rather than environmental impact. Forty-nine percent said they would purchase a green product to reduce energy bills and save money, while reducing environmental impact was the reasoning for 31% of consumers; creating a healthier home was the choice of 13%.

Eco Pulse's authors advise those involved in marketing green products or homes to make the selection and decision-making process simpler, easier, and less overwhelming for consumers.