A Focus Group of One

A Focus Group of One

If there’s anything I can’t stand in the research world, it’s people who use themselves as focus groups and don’t seek answers from people who aren’t like them.

In my role as Director of Insight here, I listen to countless focus groups and pour over mountains of survey data in spreadsheets, so I can’t be accused of being a focus group of one. Until today. I’m going to dive into my world a little bit and share some of its complexities with you as I try to live a more sustainable life. Let my little story serve as a reminder that people are, simply put, complicated.

• In our effort to become more conscious eaters, we visited one farmers market and two grocery stores in one day last weekend to get what we wanted and needed. As much as I love the farmers market, I don’t always know what I’ll actually come home with and it’s not as close by as our usual conventional grocery store. We also went to Whole Foods for the organic products that our neighborhood grocery store doesn’t offer. Bottom line: Three trips where there used to be one, and a fridge full of organic, locally grown fruit and veggies. Now I’m thinking about growing some of our own food next year instead of trying to keep up with that shopping schedule.

• I installed our first LED bulb last week, replacing a perfectly good CFL. While I was excited to see a difference in the quality of light, I couldn’t tell between the two. But I did feel better and more environmentally responsible for being more energy efficient. I also like feeling that I’m one of the first people I know to have one. It’s like a little bragging point for me. The idea that I might save money is appealing, but knowing what I know from our Pulse studies, I don’t really expect to save anything.

• Several weeks ago, I made another sweep around the house to see what we could reasonably unplug to save energy. I pulled the plug on several lights in the guest room, a clock radio, our shredder and our bedroom TV that we hardly use. Except I’ve decided to plug the TV back in. It’s just too damn hard to move the heavy dresser and struggle to get my arm back there to fish out the power cord and find the outlet in the dark.

• I love gadgets, so when my better half got a new iPhone 4 last week, well, I was admittedly jealous. My perfectly functional iPhone 3S, which I loved until I saw the 4, now feels outdated. I don’t feel as cool and cutting edge as I did just last week. I want one. Bad. But then I think to myself, look, your phone works just fine. Logically, you don’t need one and you certainly don’t need an iPad, so get over it. Oh, and self, you’re trying to simplify your life, reducing unnecessary consumption. Truth is, these arguments aren’t really working yet. It’s a struggle that I know Apple will ultimately win. Probably on both counts.

• I confess, I like grass. I like green, lush lawns and a garden full of happy flowers. That takes water. I water my lawn. I water my grass. And if I grow vegetables next year, I’ll water them, too. But I don’t have a rain barrel. I know I need one, heck, I even want one. But when it comes right down to it, I spent that $100 bucks on new lighting for the kitchen. If someone wants to give me a rain barrel, that would be awesome (hint, hint) so I can stop feeling guilty about it.

Again, focus group of one…but it illustrates what we’re all asking consumers to do as we ask them to Be Green.  It’s really not as easy as it seems.

About the Author

Karen Barnes

Karen is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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