KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - When it comes to making their homes green, consumers in the United States are paralyzing themselves to inaction based on overwhelming notions of what is required and what it costs, according to Eco Pulse, a national study on consumers and green affinity, produced by Shelton Group, a Tennessee advertising agency focused on energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability.

When Eco Pulse asked consumers to choose from a provided list of features all of which they thought were “required” to make a home green, respondents’ requirements were demanding. Out of 17 listed features, the average number of features checked by consumers totaled 10.4.

Top features consumers believed were required included Energy Star appliances (cited by 82 percent), water conserving features (78 percent), and high-efficiency windows and a renewable electric power generation system such as solar (71 percent each).

Juxtaposed with this demanding standard, consumers demonstrated a high awareness gap when asked unaided questions earlier in the survey. While 55 percent of U.S. consumers said that having a green home is important to very important, when asked to then name (unaided) a green home feature, 42 percent could not. Twenty-eight percent cited “solar,” 12 percent cited CFL light bulbs, 10 percent cited energy-efficient or Energy Star appliances, and 10 percent cited “the household recycles.”

Although most consumers know green buzzwords, when asked “What does the term green mean, as in green homes, green home products, etc.?”, most (56 percent) could offer only generic responses, such as “environmentally-friendly” or “eco-friendly.” Another 8 percent were unable to offer an answer at all. The top specific answers were “energy efficient” (8 percent) and “natural or chemical-free” (5 percent).

“Consumers seem to think green homes are an all-or-nothing proposition - and because of the real and perceived costs, many are throwing their hands up and saying ‘I just can’t do all of this’,” said Shelton Group CEO Suzanne Shelton.

When Eco Pulse asked consumers the primary reason to purchase a green home product, respondents’ answers were more financial than environmental: 49 percent said “to reduce my energy bill (save money),” 31 percent chose “to lessen my impact on the environment,” and 13 percent chose “to make my home healthier.” A majority (78 percent) of consumers said that green products sometimes to always cost more.

Interestingly, there is a flip-side to the economic issue on green products. When taken as a whole, the vast number of green home products and their collective costs appear to overwhelm consumers. Yet on an individual product basis, U.S. consumers do value green product features, and most are willing to pay some premium for them.

“When it comes to green and sustainability, the consumer mindset and behavioral patterns are full of contradictions,” Shelton said. “With that said, one of the real take-aways of Eco Pulse that marketers should note is the idea of simplicity - making green purchase decisions easier and less overwhelming for consumers to get their arms around.”

Publication date:07/07/2008