New Survey: Consumers Want to Save Money Not the Planet


The Shelton Group just published results of a January 2009 telephone survey of 500 people, and the basic idea is this: Consumers are more interested in saving money than they are in saving the planet.  When asked why they would consider buying energy-efficient products, 71% said they would do it to save money, 55% to save the environment, and 49% to protect the quality of life for future generations.  With the economy as it is, the results aren't surprising, but in prior years, consumers actually said they were primarily interested in saving the environment. 

Those consumers, though, they sure can flip flop — there's probably nothing worse than a consumer with no scruples, so maybe we'll see a return to earthly altruism in the future.  While we're waiting, here's what else the study found:

After learning they would save money over the long term, consumers indicated they would likely invest in some of the following energy-efficient measures:

  • 44% would buy a programmable thermostat;
  • 43% would install insulation in their homes; and
  • 42% would install a high-efficiency water heater. 

With regard to green actions or behaviors, consumers are doing some of the following:

  • 73% turn off lights, unplug things, turn off power strips;
  • 71% adjust thermostat/hot water setting to save energy;
  • 57% replace incandescent lights with CFLs;
  • 57% buy Energy Star appliances and equipment; and
  • 52% complete energy-efficient home renovations.  

But watch out, consumers aren't so good with some of the following:

  • 13% install natural, indigenous, and low-water landscaping;
  • 10% telecommute to work;
  • 9% participate in the utility's green power program; and
  • 6% buy carbon offsets for plan trips or for home. 

Any thoughts?

[=] Utility Pulse 2009 [PDF] at The Shelton Group.

  • Portland Real Estate

    This does not surprise me though it does depress me a little. I like the saving money part, but I like the saving the environment even more. When I started growing plants in the window and completely replaced all of the light bulbs in my house I was doing it to try to lessen my daily impact upon the world.

  • Concourse E

    When you live in a consumption based economy as we do, the majority of people always will want more money to buy more things. Widespread acceptance of sustainability will never happen based on intellect, ideals, or altruism…at least not in the states.

    People get green real fast when you have $4 gas though. That’s why I was one of the few people who didn’t want to see it go.

  • [jay] p

    good point concourse…people want to save more money to buy more things…which takes more energy. interesting.

  • Anonymous

    People are always going to be motivated by money, unfortunately. It’s up to the sustainability community to find ways to frame their products in a way that appeals to those people.

    That’s going to be a reality for a while, at least until the current generation of high school/college students grow up and become consumers. Maybe then we’ll be able to appeal to their altruistic tendencies, but until then we’ve gotta sell the sizzle, not the steak.

  • Cate Ferguson

    It’s a sad but true situation. A recently TV program looking at the building industry in Australia showed that people really want “the biggest amount of house they can have for as small amount of money”… the planet just wasn’t on the list. :-(

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