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Price Still a Green Barrier: Study

NEW YORK — While U.S. consumers are buying organic products and turning to digital devices for environmental learning, they are still reluctant to pay significantly more to be environmentally friendly, according to new Green Gauge research from GfK here.

The study shows that 73% of U.S. consumers have purchased a product made from organic materials in the past 12 months. Categories that have seen notable increases since 2007 in organic buying include food, household cleaning, apparel and pet food and supplies.

In addition, 93% of Americans say they have done something to conserve energy in their households in the past year, and 77% have done something to save household water during the same time frame.

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But green awareness and engagement do not necessarily translate to green purchase. Compared to 2008, the proportion of U.S. consumers willing to pay more for environmentally friendly alternatives has gone down in a variety of key areas — from cars that are less polluting to the air (down from 62% to 49%) to energy efficient lightbulbs (down from 70% to 60%).

Digital media are helping to amplify green awareness; 29% of smartphone users have turned to an app in the past year to help reduce their environmental impact — a figure that jumps to 44% for Generation Z (ages 18 to 22) and 38% for Generation Y (ages 23 to 32).  Most-cited types of apps used include public transportation timetables and home energy monitors.

In addition, 18% of consumers say that social networking sites are a “major source” of green information for them (up four points from 2011), with another 33% citing it as a “minor source.”  

“Green awareness is indeed pervasive — but consumers can perceive ‘green’ claims as a negative in some contexts,” said Timothy Kenyon, director for the Green Gauge survey, in a statement. “For example, while terms like ‘organic’ and ‘recyclable’ have strong positive resonance, they are often associated with higher prices. Understanding consumers’ triggers and the limits of their commitment to green action is essential for marketers and researchers alike.”

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