Eco-consumption under pressure from economic slowdown and greenwash

The slowing US economy is dragging down several green industries, including demand for green homes, energy-efficient home products and renewable energy, according to Energy Pulse 2007, the third annual national consumer market study conducted by the Shelton Group.

For eight different kinds of energy efficient home products, this year’s Energy Pulse survey found that consumers are on average 16% less likely to go green, with 11% saying they’re less likely to buy CFL or halogen light bulbs, 15% less likely to buy special insulation, and 19% saying they’re less likely to buy an Energy Star certified home appliance. The survey wasn’t entirely gloom-and-doom for the green economy: consumer interest in renewable energy for their homes is at an all-time high. Over 54% of respondents said they were likely or very likely to participate in a green power program through their utility, up from 44% last year. Despite the growth in consumer interest in these programs, the survey found that actual participation in green energy programs is at a standstill: over the last three years, the number of consumers saying they already participate in these programs has actually dropped slightly, from 3.4% in 2005 to 3.2% this year. Sheldon chalked this up to poor promotion and marketing from utility companies.

Although much of the drawdown can be blamed on fallout from the sub-prime mortgage loan scandal, Shelton Group CEO Suzanne Shelton said that economic concerns are only half the equation. Fewer consumers seem willing to put the up-front cash into a green or energy-efficient purchase despite how much it may save them in the long-run or how it might assuage their guilt about the environment,” Shelton added. “Marketers should take notice with respect to the content and credibility of their messages. Prices matter, and consumers may be growing weary of companies that appear to tout ‘green’ merely as a marketing ploy.


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