Shattering the Stereotype of the Green Consumer

ClimateBizThe Shelton Group recently released their Green Living Pulse study – a national study of green consumers.  The top findings: economy is top concern/priority (even for green consumers); motivation to save energy is to save money, not the planet. 

Posted Aug. 27, 2009

By Suzanne Shelton, ClimateBiz

A new national study of green consumers is busting the
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 s
hould do to save the planet, they often don’t do it. As a result,
messages aimed at them often fall on deaf ears … 

Our Green Living Pulse study published
last week, and our PR team has done such a good job of boiling down a
few of the key findings, that I’m literally stealing from their press
release here.

First, though, a bit of context. Shelton Group conducts four
national consumer studies a year to keep our finger on the pulse of
shifting attitudes and behaviors around energy and the environment. We
use these insights to fuel the development of our advertising and
communications work for our clients.

We’ve noticed that about 3/4 of the population consistently pops up
as participating in at least some green attitudes and behaviors, and
the Earthsense Eco-Insights study confirmed this.

So we reached out to the 77 percent of the population identified as
green buyers in the most recent Eco-Insights study of 30,000 consumers
and probed deeper on knowledge vs. behaviors, attitudes and messaging
responsiveness. Through the course of our study, we busted six big
myths that marketers have long held true about green consumers:

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

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

2. Myth: 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 percent chose “to reduce my bills/control costs” and only 26 percent
chose “to lessen my impact on the environment.”

3. Myth: 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 percent)
chose the incorrect answer, “It depletes the ozone layer.”

4. Myth: 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. Instead, the survey found that green consumers generally
share one of two mindsets. The Engaged Green Mindset 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
Mainstream Green Mindset is more pessimistic, introverted and apt to
like things known and tried — responding to themes of security and

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

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

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

Green Living Pulse shows
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
question correctly, yet, on average, their green activity levels were
lower than those of older respondents.

The moral of the story is this: Many marketers and, frankly,
advertising agencies, are stereotyping green consumers and embracing
many of these myths as fact. If green messages were simply better
targeted, more people would be buying green products, conserving
electricity and doing more to save the planet. If you’ve got a green ad
campaign in the market now and you don’t feel like it’s driving
inquiries the way it should, it’s a good bet it’s because the campaign
is founded on myth rather than fact.

Suzanne C. Shelton is founder, president and CEO of Shelton Group,
an advertising agency focused exclusively on motivating mainstream
consumers to make sustainable choices. She writes a blog at, where this piece originally appeared.

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