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Green Still Follows Green: The Environment Retains Influence on Spending
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Green Still Follows Green: The Environment Retains Influence on Spending

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Since the summer of 2009, Harris Interactive has been tracking Americans' attitudes toward the environment as well as their engagement in various environmentally-friendly or "green" behaviors.

While concern and awareness around environmental issues has slipped, this has yet to affect how consumers say environmental issues influence their purchase behavior. The exception here is young adults, aged 18-24, who have grown decidedly more likely to consider the environment when spending.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,451 U.S. adults (ages 18 and over), surveyed online between March 12 and March 19, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

A full quarter of U.S. adults (26%) say that environmental issues are either "extremely" or "very" important to them when deciding which products or services to purchase, a number that remains remarkably consistent across gender, geography, education, and income. Moreover, this has moved little over the years: 27% of U.S. adults said environmental issues were extremely/very important to their purchasing decisions in 2010 and 26% said the same in 2009.

The story is quite different, however, among the youngest of U.S. adults. Nearly a third (31%) of 18-24 year-olds claim to take environmental issues into consideration when making purchases, a number which has steadily risen from 24% in 2010 and 22% in 2009.

Americans also continue to show a preference for products and services that are 'green', with 79% seeking out green products, slightly up from 78% in 2010 and 76% in 2009. But what has rebounded to 2009 levels is that 31% of U.S. adults say they are willing to pay extra for a green product, up from 28% in 2010, and back to the 32% who said the same in 2009.

Again, however, 18-24 year old U.S. adults show a striking change: 35% say they are willing to pay extra for a green product, a sharp rise from 27% in 2010 and 25% in 2009. And, although just 4% of all U.S. adults seek out green products and services regardless of the cost (virtually unchanged from 3% in 2010 and 2009), the 18-24 year old age group is at a remarkable 11%, far above the 3% of 18-24 year-olds who said the same in 2010 and 2009. At the same time though, even half of this youngest age group (51%) say they are not willing to pay extra for green products.

So What? In light of the decline this Harris Poll series has seen in green attitudes and awareness, it is striking that in an area where one could expect to see this decline materialize first - people's wallets - the numbers have remained remarkably consistent. This could very well indicate that a "green influencing green" phenomenon, namely a sizeable minority of consumers who look to environmental issues to gauge how to spend their money, will continue to shape consumer economic activity, regardless of how Americans in general feel about the environment. Moreover, considering the sharp uptick in reported purchasing behavior among young American adults, we may very well see environmental issues grow in importance in the years to come, as these younger Americans see their purchasing power increase as they move into and advance in the workplace.

IMPACT OF ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ON PURCHASE BEHAVIOR "How important are environmental issues to you when it comes to making decisions about which products or services you purchase?"

Base: All adults












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