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Some Consumers Green in Action, Others in Theory

While 46 percent of U.S. adults say they neither think nor act Green, the two percent of the population who are self-described Green Advocates are among the most tech-savvy consumers, according to Mediamark Research & Intelligence’s Survey of the American Consumer.

The six consumer segments produced by MRI highlight different attitudes toward the environment and actions taken to support it. Consumers are categorized from both ends of the spectrum: those who are not Green-conscious at all, and those who make preserving the environment a major factor in their lives.

The “Greenest” of the green segments is composed of Green Advocates. These are the most ecology-minded people: they recycle, drive hybrid cars, buy organic foods and actively preserve the environment. And although they comprise just two percent of the American population, they are the activist vanguard for the Green movement.

They are opinion leaders who research and read product reviews before buying new technology. And they are 65% more likely to give technology product advice about what they’ve learned to others.

Green Advocates are also 41 percent more likely to completely agree that technology helps make their life more organized; 36 percent more likely to be fascinated by new technologies; and 30 percent more likely to completely agree that computers are a good source of entertainment. They are also 24 percent more likely than the average U.S. adult to prefer to use the Internet when booking travel and 23 percent more likely to be comfortable conducting day-to-day banking online.

Description of Green Segments

  • Un-Green: These consumers place little value on preserving the environment and they put convenience and price before pro-environmental factors. They don’t buy organic food, don’t recycle and have no involvement in environmental groups.
  • Green at the Supermarket: Members of this segment are Green, but not always because of the environment. They often “buy green” and eat organic foods, most likely because of health concerns – not necessarily out of concern for the environment.
  • Green in Theory: Members of this segment are Green by self-description, but not in practice. They say it’s important to protect the environment and to be in tune with nature, but their choice in products doesn’t necessarily back this up. They are not involved in environmental groups or causes.
  • Green but Only If: Green Shoppers think green and often act green, but their allegiance to Green causes has limits. They have positive views on protecting the environment and act on them, but they are not willing to give up convenience or pay more for environmentally safe products.
  • Green at Their Best: Green at Their Best members think green, shop green, and live green. They are true believers in environmental causes, consistently recycling and buying environmentally friendly products, even when those products are less convenient or cost more than similar items.
  • Green Advocates: Green Advocates are the greenest of the Green. Nature and the environment are of paramount importance to this segment, whose members firmly believe their actions have an impact on the world. Not only do they recycle, environmental impact is an overriding factor in all their purchase decisions. And they actively support environmental causes.
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3 thoughts on “Some Consumers Green in Action, Others in Theory

  1. Your article and survey imply that organic food is the only or best measure of “green” consumers regarding food choices. This is a very narrow and naive understanding of agriculture. Organic does not have an automatic advantage in sustainability or viability of agriculture practices. Many if not most farms rotate crops, use cover crops, use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for pest control, and minimize off-farm inputs; the costs of inputs require such.

    Organic can actually increase off-farm inputs since it requires either more fuel for cultivation to control weeds, or more labor doing physical hoeing or other methods of weed removal compared to conventional farms.

    Organic also doesn’t mean “chemical free.” The National Organic Standard allows many standard chemicals used on conventional farms. For example, potassium chloride (mined) fertilizer can be used if applied
    in a manner that minimizes chloride accumulation. Other mined substances of
    low solubility, such as rock phosphate, are also allowed. Synthetic substances, including elemental sulfur (S), soluble boron (B) products, magnesium sulfate (Mg & S), and most micronutrient (except those containing
    nitrates or chlorides) sources can be used as soil amendments in organic crop production. Synthetic compounds, such as copper sulfate and copper hydroxide, hydrated lime, hydrogen peroxide, elemental sulfur, lime sulfur and selected horticultural oils (dormant, suffocating, and summer oils), are on the NOP approved list for plant disease control. Conventional farmers use many of these same control methods. Take a look at the complete list at:

    Finally, most consumers not be aware that most organic food sold at retail in the US does not come from US farms. Why? It requires much more labor than conventional farms — and legal labor is hotly disputed and increasingly difficult to come by. There are also other cost reasons for growers who risk 3 years of production transitioning to organic for a market that is increasingly volatile and lacking economic incentive compared to increased commodity prices for non-organic. While the retail sector growth of organic is claimed to be growing 15-20% per year, that level of growth at the farm level in the US is not matched. Hence, most of the product is coming from Mexico, China, Chile and other places that never moved out of pre-1950 organic production methods that rely heavily on hand labor and raw inputs.
    Hence, the product is transported thousands of miles to reach US consumers.
    Consumers need to see a broader picture of the realities and limitations of organic, along with the portrayed benefits — some of which are real, some aren’t — rather than the hype that so often appears in media articles.

  2. I’m wishing now I had started listing all the demographic splits as we go along, because at the rate we’re going we’ll each have our own personal term… to go with our own personal green guide to help us on the path of eco-righteousness.

    Not sure being a member of a green group should be an essential to being Good Green In Practice.

    I have to say, I quite like the notion of the ‘Un-Green’, but only as a term, mind.

  3. Interesting stats, nice to see these kind of market research pieces. I think titles like ‘green advocate’ and ‘greenest of the green’ can give a bit too much credit however. Buying a Prius is a good thing, but buying a bicyle is better.

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