This year’s Energy Pulse® will be out in a month, and we conducted some focus groups in mid-August to guide us in the creation of this year’s quantitative study. The nut we were hoping to crack was: Why is it people consistently say one thing and do another?
We know, for instance, the energy efficient products people say they’re very likely to buy often don’t get purchased (and our four years of tracking data bears that out), and we know that though 49% of the population swears a company’s environmental record plays a role in their purchase decisions, only 7% of the population can cough up a specific product they’ve purchased because of a company’s environmental record.
So why is that? Past focus groups and quantitative work have led us to believe that it was simply a matter of trust and education. If there were a believable green label, for instance, consumers could choose green products without fear of being ripped off — the kind of credibility the ENERGY STAR label brings for energy efficiency. Or if someone would just come to their homes and show them exactly what investments would deliver the most energy savings in return, they could get unfrozen from the fear of making a mistake and make some viable changes to their homes.
Fear — of being taken advantage of and of spending money on the wrong efficiency item — are clearly still factors in the equation. But the nastier truth is that basic human desires rule the day. Comfort, convenience and personal freedom drive most efficient and green purchase decisions (or indecision). Folks don’t carpool because they want to be able to jump in their cars and go where they want when they want to. People don’t take shorter showers because they value their comfort more than they believe we’ll run out of clean water for our grandchildren. And they don’t spend money on a higher efficiency HVAC unit because they’d rather just have an adequate unit and have the extra money to spend on something else.
The trick, as always, is to sell efficiency and sustainability in such a way that it promises these same benefits. Simple screaming “save money!” or “go green!” just doesn’t cut it.
Stay tuned for more on this as we analyze and publish this year’s Energy Pulse® report.