In a world with increasing pressure to protect the environment - from the ozone layer to the whales - it would seem reasonable to assume that American families actively support "green" initiatives in their consumer habits.
But while American parents may be there in spirit, when it comes to time and money, going green seems to go out the minimum-heat-gain window.
In its first PersonicX® Consumer Dynamics study, in which Acxiom researchers analyze consumer data to provide insight on how Americans live, Acxiom has discerned a meaningful pattern in American households with children when it comes to environmental behaviors.
Acxiom consumer researchers analyzed the 70 PersonicX Classic clusters across a number of “green” questions, such as:
- “Are you willing to pay more or give up convenience for environmentally-friendly products?”
- “Have you participated in environmental groups in the past year?”
- “Do you drive a vehicle that shows your support of the environment?”
A clear trend emerged: Children were significantly less likely to be present in “green” households. The highest environmentally indexing clusters fall into two general groups, those who are younger, still single and looking for something to take care of (which Acxiom researchers called “Greenhorns”), and those who are more senior, still married or now single and looking for something to take care of (“Greener Pastures”).
In fact, when compared to the national population, Greenhorns are more than 60 percent more likely to purchase automobiles that reflect their support of the environment. Greener Pastures are more than 40 percent more likely to pay more and give up convenience to purchase products that are environmentally friendly. Though they may come from a variety of incomes, net worth and areas of population density, these groups undoubtedly share a heightened concern for the environment, as well as the time to act on that concern.
This PersonicX Consumer Dynamics study indicates that many parents direct their efforts to saving time and money – over the environment – while raising children, demonstrating a need for more convenient, less expensive ways to go green.
“As a father, I understand that parents have their hands full every day just making sure their kids eat well and act right. They care about the environment, but it is difficult to focus on green initiatives when their attention is taken by the here and now,” said Louis Rolleigh, product leader of PersonicX. “But it may also be true that companies that produce convenient, cost-effective environmentally friendly products aren’t getting their messages through to decisionmakers in these households.”
Greenhorns are typically 24 to 45, have no children in the home, are renters with some homeowners mixed in, are low-middle to upper-middle class and live in cities and city surroundings. Greener Pastures are over the age of 66, and they may be married or single, but – again – have no children in the home. They are mostly homeowners with some renters, and again span the middle class ranks, while living in rural areas as well as cities and surrounding suburbs and towns.
“This finding is provocative,” said Rolleigh, “because it shows us that you don’t have to be free of financial concerns to choose environmentally conscious behaviors. Greenhorns and Greener Pastures span the income level of what we call ‘middle class,’ but they are willing to pay more for environmentally-friendly products and services. And they may be more ‘urbane’ and live in cities, but they may also be people in remote or less populated regions of our country.”
PersonicX is a segmentation system that clusters households into 70 distinct categories and 21 life-stage groups based on various characteristics. When analyzing the PersonicX clusters, Acxiom researchers found there were distinct PersonicX clusters that demonstrated green tendencies in the Greenhorn group.
Single and concentrated in the more urban areas, the members of the Greenhorn clusters typify the online junkies, who are hooked on caffeine, energy drinks and saving the environment. They are the most likely to buy autos that make a green statement and are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products. Members of this more liberal group, often found shopping for trendy furnishings and apparel, are increasingly more driven to show their faces at a political rally than they are in a voting booth.
Perhaps Greener Pastures individuals are not out rollerblading and playing tennis like their younger counterparts, but this cohort of seniors is very active in clubs and charitable organizations, and these individuals, who represent multiple political parties, make sure their voices are heard with consistent voter participation. Willing to pay more and trade convenience for environmentally friendly products, those with upper-middle incomes also have shown their support with monetary contributions to environmental groups in the past year.
“We conducted this study as part of an ongoing effort to better understand how Americans are living their lives,” said Rolleigh. “It is one thing to analyze how people describe their values in a survey, but it is more enlightening to understand how they live those values through their purchasing behavior.
“That’s where the rubber meets the road – on a hybrid or not,” said Rolleigh. “Values are best understood through behavior – and consumer behavior is an important indicator of values in U.S. households. Clearly, for families with kids, convenience and cost come first.”
Mediamark Research and Intelligence, LLC, one of Acxiom’ data sources, provided PersonicX researchers with household information on environmental behaviors for analysis in this study.