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[greenyes] Sustainability in the Inland Northwest: Conference wraps up in Boise, Idaho

True 'green' shoppers are few and far between
Polls: Only 10% consistently buy 'green' products

The Idaho Statesman | Edition Date: 03-04-2005

Polls indicate that most Americans consider themselves
sustainability-aware, "green"-savvy consumers. In fact, a full 75
percent of Americans place themselves in this category.

But presenters at the last day of the two-day "Sustainability in the
Inland Northwest" conference said a discrepancy exists between the
number of consumers who refer to themselves as "green"-savvy, and those
who truly follow through on their convictions and buy environmentally
friendly products on a consistent basis.

"There are not that many true 'green' consumers," said Shelley Zimmer,
Nike's senior manager of footwear sustainability.

In reality, only about 10 percent of American consumers are truly
green-conscious shoppers, Zimmer said. These are the shoppers who
actively search out such products and are willing to pay more to get
them, she said.

The remaining 65 percent are not as willing to go out of their way to
find them or pay extra for them, but are still interested in such
products, Zimmer said. "They're busy. They have lots of things going on
in their lives," she said. "They want to be able to buy them in
accessible ways."

Zimmer's projects include improving Nike's footwear packaging,
gathering consumer insights related to sustainability and driving
sustainable design innovations.

In recent years, she said, Nike has introduced products like athletic
shoes that are both comprised of less toxic materials and designed to be
more easily recycled.

In Nike's case, making green products more accessible has meant moving
towards incorporating as many green characteristics into all of their
product lines as possible.

In that way, Zimmer said, customers can more easily support
sustainability and "don't have to make those trade-offs" between
high-priced green and less expansive non-green products.

But there are smaller businesses which are unable to benefit from
widespread advertising. For them, success in marketing green products
comes down to offering "something different," said Janie Burns, the
owner of Meadowlark Farms in Nampa.

Burns sells organic food products like eggs, grass-fed lamb and
vegetables. Burns spoke at the same session as Nike's Zimmer.

What differentiates her products from others, Burns said, are the
health and environmental benefits they offer to customers.

In the move towards greener products, manufacturers are increasingly
relying on industry-specific certification programs or eco-labels to
help consumers differentiate between green and regular products.

Matthew Buck of the Food Alliance in Portland said businesses selling
products straight to the consumer at places like farmers' markets may
not benefit from certification. Customers who shop there are the 10
percent who actively search out green products, he said, and are
therefore more knowledgeable about the products they buy.

It's the roughly 65 percent of consumers who consider themselves green
shoppers that may be more attracted to a product that advertises green
certification, organic certification or eco-labels, Buck said.

"Certification is not a magic bullet," Buck said. "It will not sell
your products for you."

Instead of just peddling what they've got to consumers, Buck said
businesses wishing to sell green products need to "market what people

About 300 people attended the two-day conference at Boise's Grove

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