Aiding the Planet (if It’s Easily Done)

While “green” has become a catch-all expression for everything eco-friendly, a BBMG poll finds the term doesn’t resonate well with many consumers. When people were asked how they feel about some words and phrases, the “strongly favorable” vote for “green” was a lackluster 33 percent — leaving it far behind “recycled” (53 percent), “environmentally friendly” (50 percent), “biodegradable” (48 percent) and “locally grown” (45 percent).

On a more personal level, just 18 percent said the term “green” describes them very well. Many more said they’re very well described by “socially responsible” (39 percent), “conscious consumer” (37 percent) and “environmentally friendly” (34 percent).

Other parts of the survey lead one to wonder if people shun the term “green” because they know they don’t live up to it. One question asked respondents how important some factors are to them when shopping. While 41 percent rated “energy efficient” as very important, it lagged behind more purely self-interested considerations like “quality” (66 percent) and “price” (58 percent).

Moreover, the report detects “a disparity between what consumers claim to value and what they actually do.” For instance, while 28 percent said it’s very important to them to buy products from “a company that does good things for people and the planet,” just 17 percent said they always do so. A mere 16 percent always take the trouble to bring a reusable bag with them when shopping; 22 percent always use environmentally friendly cleaning products.

As the report notes, “Consumers may expect more from companies than they themselves are willing to do. In their personal lives, consumers’ social responsibility is largely limited to ‘easy’ behaviors,” such as recycling cans, bottles and newspapers (55 percent always) and using energy-efficient appliances and lightbulbs (46 percent always). (And, of course, such recycling is legally mandated in many communities.) The report says consumers typically fail to adopt more “demanding” behaviors, such as using fuel-efficient modes of transportation.