Beauty vs. the Beast (the utility bill, that is)

Beauty vs. the Beast (the utility bill, that is)

Very interesting finding in this year’s Energy Pulse: we’re back to prioritizing aesthetics over energy efficiency.  Last year when asked, “Assume you were suddenly given $10,000 to make home improvements, which two of the following things would you do?” energy efficient choices rose to the top:  replacing windows and HVAC units.  This year, just like every year before 2008, remodeling the kitchen or bathroom and replacing carpet with hardwood or tile are back on top.

Now, our study also reveals continued economic drivers for product choices and concern over rising utility costs, just like last year…but don’t underestimate the power of beautiful things.  Our Director of Research coined the phrase “sparkly green” a couple of years ago to summarize the home run (“It’s beautiful AND it’s good for the environment!”), and we’re seeing it play out again and again.  Yesterday’s New York Times featured a story on the battle some homeowners find themselves in against their homeowner’s associations for the right to hang their laundry on a clothesline.  (“It uses less energy!” vs “It’s ugly!”) On a regular basis homeowners find their HOA’s prohibit them from installing solar systems (“It’s environmentally friendly!” vs “It’s ugly”) and neighbors file lawsuits when personal wind mills are installed (“It’s natural — the power of the wind!” vs “It’s ugly”).

So the moral of this story from a consumer marketing perspective is:  find a way to make sustainability beautiful.  And if you can’t do that, make it invisible.  Imbed roofing tiles with solar film so it blends in, build a tall screen out of bamboo to shield your laundry (thanks Sandy Culver at Lowe’s for that idea), and build a green home that looks just like all the other homes on the block.

Beauty sells. Even in a down economy.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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