Getting Tired of Going Green: Avoiding Consumer Burn-Out

Who isn't going green these days? To some consumers, "green" is becoming nothing more than a buzzword -- and an annoying one, slapped on everything from the family car to the latest washing machine. For the past few years, terms like green and lean have grown in popularity, and there are still consumers who realize that eco-consciousness is more than a movement, more than a fad, more than a marketing ploy. The overenthusiastic can easily learn how to green their furniture, their gardens, even their sex lives. But with the green label slapped on every product around, many consumers are skeptical, apathetic, even tired of dubious environmental claims.

"After 18 months, levels of concern on any issue tend to drop off," Jonathan Banks of market research company Nielsen told Grist Environmental News and Commentary. "I fear that something similar may happen with this." Grist adds some startling statistics: "Britain's Advertising Standards Authority says that in 2007, it received 561 complaints from consumers about greenwashing [marketing a product with false or misleading eco-claims] in 410 ads; in 2006, it received a mere 117 complaints about 86 ads."

Companies should always avoid misleading consumers with "greenwashing," but eco-fatigue has become an important issue and a concern among companies touting their environmentally-friendly status. TreeHugger notes that companies can avoid this downfall if they "provide a product that actually does something better, different than what is out there (surprise!); otherwise it's just one more product on the market and consumers won't buy it. Also, make a product that is not only fun, but that you actually believe in it. While you might luck out and get rich, you also might not, so it's better to love it and believe in it." Basically, concentrate on the product; don't concentrate on the hype.

Advertising Age ran an article with seven different ways to avoid eco-fatigue (and greenwashing), stressing that "green" products have to be more than a marketing gimmick: "Can coal really market the industry as being green and clean? What is Kermit the Frog doing with the Ford Escape? People smell falsehoods, and you go from bad to worse." They note that sustainability should be higher on the minds of CEOs than the term "green." Saving the environment is important, but to save your company, you also need to focus on sustainability efforts. Don't let "going green" get tired. We can't afford to let important environmental initiatives become no more important than fads like pet rocks and disco.

- Amy Edwards

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