Ask any realistic sustainability activist and they’ll tell you that the majority of buyers in the US are not that motivated by green marketing.
Being green is simply not a primary reason that consumers select products.
[SOURCE: © Tiger Girl, used according to Creative Commons license)]
This is due to a few reasons:
1) Misperception: green products are expensive with inferior customer experience: “That recycled hemp fiber toilet paper is supposed to give you a rash, that way you use less of it.”
2) Nagging: green marketing is guilt marketing: “The moment you exhaled your first breath, your CO2 footprint started increasing, so buy this green soap.”
3) Green washing: “Wear fur – its from natural, renewable resources”
Consumers realize that painting a green image does not make a product sustainable.
[SOURCE: © Peter Merholz, used according to Creative Commons License]
4) Not actually helping: green products that in aggregate aren’t very green: “These electric cars emit zero emissions because all the emissions have already been emitted by the coal-fired electric plants that charge them.”
5) Skepticism: not appreciating real sustainable improvements: “That company has too big a CO2 footprint in their annual audit, so lets shop at the one that has no audit.”
The truth is that the typical American consumer is not willing to make big sacrifices in cost or quality to achieve sustainability, especially when its confusing whether supposedly sustainable choices really help anyways.
Sustainability Works When its Sensible
Consumers will adopt sustainable products and services when they are superior in quality, or are more sensible. Want to get more people to take public transit? Make it more frequent and convenient. Want to get more people to recycle? Provide single stream recycling in a city rather than complicated sorting.
I believe that non-sustainable products are the result of an incomplete, or sloppy design process. To achieve sustainability requires a superior design process. This is one reason why I’m so excited to be collaborating with Vtricity on the Instagreen project. I firmly believe we are onto a sensible, superior way for people to reconnect with their neighborhoods, which simultaneously promotes sustainability. I look forward to hearing your feedback about whether you agree.