Gain a Sustainable Advantage :: Shelton Group

Eco Pulse™ 2012

Eco Pulse™ is Shelton Group’s annual consumer green affinity study, tracking purchases, behaviors and attitudes related to sustainability.Eco Pulse creates a clear, robust picture of your target consumers – including which product features actually get them to pull out their wallets – so you can develop marketing strategies that speak their language.

Study OverviewMethodologyExecutive SummaryPress Release

Shelton Group’s fifth annual Eco Pulse™ study reveals a number of green product perceptions, drivers and knowledge issues for a variety of categories (from food to home improvement products), and identifies important consumer trends, including:

  • How sharing a solid sustainability story can drive purchasing decisions at-shelf
  • Where consumers want you to focus your sustainability efforts
  • What makes green consumers feel most guilty – and what that means for your marketing efforts

Eco Pulse™ 2012 can help you identify opportunities to create real behavior change, maximize your relationship with today’s consumers and create a market advantage for your brand.

Get a sneak peek! Start by downloading your free executive summary by clicking the tab above.


  • Why some eco-labels don’t work
  • Which ingredients consumers are avoiding
  • The most important things you can do to impact green purchase decisions
  • What messaging is working and what customers look for at point-of-purchase
  • Why sustainability is experiencing a slump after years of healthy growth

Eco Pulse 2012 - Guilt Chart


Want to know more? Start by viewing the Table of Contents.

Eco Pulse™ 2012 gets to the heart of what really drives green purchases. Shelton Group’s research team goes beyond the basic quantitative research offered by other agencies. We know what we’re doing, and we’ve been doing it longer than most.

Through Eco Pulse, we’ve spent five years developing data, tracking consumer behavior, carefully watching changes in trends, and using our expertise to uncover the issues that can truly impact your business.

For this year’s study, we set out to discover what consumers think, feel and believe about green products – and how those activities have changed over time. To get a glimpse into their lives and understand their purchase behaviors, we asked:

  • How do you know if a product is green?
  • Are you searching for more energy-efficient, natural or sustainable products?
  • Where do you usually go to find greener products?
  • How green is your lifestyle?
  • What ingredients are you avoiding?
  • How much does a company’s environmental reputation impact your purchase decisions?

And through their answers, we discovered:

  • The purchase propensity they have for a variety of products
  • The importance they place on sustainable features vs. traditional features (such as efficacy, brand value and price)
  • How much more (if any) they’re willing to pay for greener products
  • If engagement and environmental activism influence purchases – and how much
  • Trends on green behaviors and habits
  • Drivers and messaging that resonate best

This is your opportunity to understand what’s most important to today’s consumers. Take a look at a few pages from the report, then get your copy today!

Eco Pulse 2012 – page 16  |  Eco Pulse 2012 – page 43

Shelton Group designed a quantitative survey containing a mix of fixed-response alternative questions, Likert scale questions and discrete choice questions, fielded via the Internet April 25–May 1, 2012. Shelton utilized SSI’s online community for sampling. The survey was stratified to mirror the geographic distribution of the population age 18 or older (227,301,996) in the United States. Survey sample data were also weighted slightly to match U.S. age, education, gender and ethnicity. The survey yielded 1,005 complete responses, for a 95-percent confidence level and a confidence interval of +/- 3.09 percent (margin of error).

Americans’ Biggest ‘Green’ Guilt: Wasting Food, Survey Finds
Far Less Guilt Over Using Lawn Chemicals, Not Buying CFLs

KNOXVILLE, TN – Of all the things “un-green” that Americans could feel guilty about – not recycling, forgetting to bring reusable bags to the store, leaving the lights on when leaving a room – they feel the most guilt about wasting food, according to a national survey released today. The finding signals a new avenue for engaging the public in sustainability efforts.

“This is an issue that gets right to the core of who we are as Americans. We were all taught to waste not, want not, and trained that wasting food equals being a bad person,” said Suzanne Shelton, founder and CEO of Shelton Group, which conducted the survey. “Yet the average household throws out 470 pounds of food every year, making it the largest component in our nation’s landfills. So I’m afraid we have plenty to feel guilty about.”

The survey, called Eco PulseTM, found that an astonishing 39 percent of Americans feel guilty about “wasting food.” In comparison, only 7 percent felt guilty about “not sticking to an energy- efficient thermostat setting,” and just 6 percent felt guilty about “using chemical lawn or plant fertilizers.”
Food waste in America has grown 50 percent since 1974, and accounts for more than one quarter of the total freshwater used and roughly 300 million barrels of oil a year, according to a government study. In fact, Americans waste about 27 percent of food available for consumption, costing the average family of four roughly $600 a year.

“We all have the best of intentions,” Shelton said. “We fill our grocery baskets with healthy meats, fruits and fresh vegetables, with big plans for a week’s worth of home-cooked meals. Then, we get swamped at work, or have to get our kids to various activities and we find ourselves picking up a pizza on the way home. By the end of the week, we’re throwing out the spoiled food from our refrigerators.
“That doesn’t mean we should go back to buying unhealthy frozen dinners and telling our kids to keep eating until their plates are clean,” Shelton added. “We just need to be more careful about buying what we need, and using what we buy.”

The annual survey, which polled 1,013 Americans and had a margin of error of 3.09 percent, asked: “Which (if any) of these things do you feel guilty about?” Americans’ top answers:
• Wasting food – 39 percent
• Leaving the lights on when I leave a room – 27 percent
• Wasting water – 27 percent
• Not unplugging chargers/electronics when not in use – 22 percent
• Not recycling things – 21 percent
• Forgetting to bring reusable bags to the store – 20 percent
• Letting the water run while brushing teeth, washing dishes, etc. – 20 percent Americans’ bottom answers:
• Running the dishwasher or clothes washer when it isn’t completely full – 10 percent
• Not making energy-efficient home improvements – 10 percent
• Washing clothes or dishes on the hottest setting – 9 percent
• Not buying CFLs or LEDs – 9 percent
• Not sticking to an energy-efficient thermostat setting – 7 percent
• Using chemical lawn or plant fertilizers – 6 percent
• Not being careful about how long/when I water the grass – 6 percent

Shelton said there clearly is an opportunity here to help people find ways to minimize food waste.

“All of us could be better at shopping, cooking and using up leftovers,” Shelton said. “Keeping food from going to waste will benefit our wallets as well as the environment. And we’ll all feel a lot less guilty.
Shelton Group’s fifth annual Eco Pulse survey also identified a number of other important consumer trends.
Among them:

• Thirty percent of respondents said a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities influenced their green purchase decisions somewhat or very much. In fact, local CSR activities that benefit the consumers’ communities, such as stocking a community food pantry, were the strongest type of initiative tested. Consumers said those activities were more believable and could actually motivate them to choose one product over another.
• An increasing number of Americans say they know a product is green because it’s made by a company with a strong environmental reputation. That number has grown from 23 percent in 2010 to 31 percent this year.
• Asked, “How truthful do you think most companies are when making green claims?” 71 percent of respondents said that companies are often or always truthful, while only 29% said they are rarely or never truthful. This shows that most consumers are at least willing to listen to companies’ green claims – and many will give them the benefit of the doubt.

About Shelton Group
Shelton Group is the nation’s leading marketing communications firm entirely focused in the energy efficiency and sustainability space.

The firm studies Americans on an ongoing basis and tracks their shifting attitudes and motivations around all things green and uses those insights to help some of America’s most progressive companies define and leverage their sustainability stories to gain a market advantage.


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