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March 04, 2005

Conveniently Green Shoppers

An astonishing statistic from today’s Idaho Statesman: 75 percent of Americans consider themselves to be “green,” environmentally-conscious shoppers. But it turns out that of those 75 percent, only 10 percent consistently and actively search out green products and are willing to pay extra for them; the other 65 percent like to buy green if it’s convenient and no more expensive than the alternative.

These statistics were presented on Thursday by Shelley Zimmer, Nike’s senior manager of footwear sustainability, at this week’s Sustainability in the Inland Northwest conference in Boise, Idaho. According to Zimmer, Nike has put considerable effort into becoming more eco-friendly, using less toxic materials (including organic cotton) and designing shoes to be easily recycled. However, Zimmer noted that to reach the 65 percent of the “green-if-it’s-convenient” consumers, Nike needs to incorporate as many green characteristics as it can into as many of its product lines as possible, so that buying green doesn’t require extra time, effort or knowledge (or money).

Matthew Buck of the Portland Food Alliance also made the point that in helping consumers differentiate between green and conventional products, industry-specific certification for eco-friendliness (such as the home-cleaning-products industry lacks) would be most helpful to that less-engaged 65 percent. He figures that the hard-core 10 percent of green shoppers already search out green products, even when it requires extra research and effort.

Personally, I’m more astonished that 75 percent of Americans consider themselves to be green shoppers than I am discouraged that only 10 percent of Americans are willing to actively search out and pay more for green products. To me, this is tremendously hopeful: if companies step up to the plate and make green products easily (and affordably) available, there’s a lot of potential for a healthier planet here.

Posted by Elizabeth Burton | Permalink


This is actually right in line with most environmental movement survey research that shows that most Americans consider them selves "environmentalists" but when asked what that means, the definition turns out to be "Recycling."

In other words, support for environmental values is a mile wide but only an inch deep.

Posted by: Jon Stahl | Mar 5, 2005 7:35:11 AM

The figures mentioned here are pretty similar to surveys on ethical shopping for the United Kingdom. Four out of Five shoppers claim to take ethical issues into account, but this only translates into a purchase of an ethical product one in 6 times (although these ethical sales, e.g., organic and fair trade, are growing faster than average)

Posted by: Simon Ferrigno | Mar 6, 2005 1:27:30 AM

I'm not surprised at these figgers at all, Elizabeth.

I have a rule I call Dano's 80:20 rule it starts with 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. The posters Simon and Jon quote similar figures to my rule.

Eliminating income taxes and initiating consumption taxes should help improve these figures.


Posted by: Dano | Mar 6, 2005 3:19:37 PM