Environmental Economics

Environmentalists Are Efficiency Experts

It’s not easy to find a bright side to America’s current economic downturn, but the environment may be one beneficiary.

“The recession is only going to accelerate the trend toward environmental consumerism,” said Jacquelyn Ottman, a New York City-based environmental marketing consultant. “Many environmental business issues deal with managing resources more efficiently. If a company builds that philosophy into their product, it will have a product that both costs less and has less of an environmental impact.”

Save Kilimanjaro conservation

Ottman has studied environmental consumerism since 1988. She recently published many of her findings in a report titled “Environmental Consumerism: What Every Marketer Needs to Know.” The report has been so popular that she now is under contract to write a more detailed book, due out this fall.

“We’re at the beginning of the environmental consumerism trend right now,” she said. “It’s going to change the way marketers do business.”

One of the more interesting trends Ottman has observed is the involvement of children.

“Young people have the single largest influence on adult purchases these days,” she said. “Especially the teenagers and college kids — they’re badgering their parents to buy environmentally responsible products.”

Characteristics of other consumer groups also have been studied by Ottman. There are the “deeply green” consumers that drastically change their lifestyle to help the environment, she said. And there is another group of people who are being conservative and resourceful, but primarily to save money rather than the environment.

A third group is too busy to worry about environmental concerns. They prefer to pay a premium for certain products to clear their environmental conscience.

“There’s a big opportunity out there for companies to sell products and services that will help people conserve resources,” Ottman said.

Environmental consumers can look forward to plenty of new products in the future, she added.

“The big news is what’s on the drawing boards today. For example, Teledyne just developed a new version of their Shower Massage that uses one-third less water,” she said. “And another company is developing a ‘dry’ washing machine that uses electro-static technology instead of water and detergents.

“People are definitely making a connection between our environmental problems and the products they buy. But the recession also has reminded everyone to just be more resourceful.”

Earth Fact: By removing the outer cartons from its Sure and Secret antiperspirants, Procter & Gamble reduced production costs by 20 percent and increased sales by 4 percent.

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