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Americans Edge Closer to Energy Awareness in Wake of Disasters

On May 3 and 4, right about the time the press coverage of the oil spill in the Gulf cranked into high gear, we conducted a poll to understand what, if anything, this event was doing to the mindset of Americans on energy.

Specifically, we wanted to know (and we asked the question this way): Had the recent West Virgina mine explosion and the spill in the Gulf made them think more about the human and environmental costs associated with their own energy consumption?

Ten percent said they strongly agreed with that statement, and 32 percent said they agreed.

Now, it’s safe to say that the 10 percent who strongly agreed are people who are already pretty environmentally aware. The more interesting group is the 32 percent. This group likely includes some folks who hadn’t done much thinking about this before now. That’s interesting/exciting because if the understanding the average consumer has about their energy consumption increases, the likelihood that they’ll be more open to green messages and energy conservation messages increases. Very good news for all of us marketers of EE and green products.

shelton chart

The news just got even better.

We asked the question again during our Green Living Pulse poll, which was in the field May 21-31 (and will publish in early August). In that poll, 18 percent strongly agreed with the statement and 34 percent agreed. That 10 point increase in agreement was equally skimmed off the other three categories (undecided, disagree and strongly disagree). So self awareness and general contemplation about one’s own personal energy consumption, and how that ties to the environment and humanity at large, is on the rise.

Again, very good news for marketers of green and energy efficient products. This trend is in keeping with other data points we’ve seen recently in our studies -- specifically that if people have a personal connection to an environmental issue, they tend to be more aware about environmental issues and seek out greener choices. This is true for moms who have kids with asthma or food allergies, it’s true for Americans who have relatives in Third World countries with no access to clean drinking water, and now it’s true for those of us who feel a personal connection to the Gulf. I did a quick Google search to see how many of us have vacationed there at least once and couldn’t find a number. My gut instinct is that many of us have. And personal connection = real concern, and real concern = behavior change.

So long story short: Americans may be more open that ever to energy conservation messages right now. And that’s an opportunity worth pursuing.

Disclaimer: Please know when I refer to these findings as “good news,” I in no way think the disaster in the Gulf is a good thing at all. Quite the contrary. This post is really about the silver lining in an otherwise very bleak situation. 

Suzanne C. Shelton is founder, president and CEO of Shelton Group, an advertising agency focused exclusively on motivating mainstream consumers to make sustainable choices. The original version of her post and the accompanying chart were published on the Shelton Group blog and are reprinted with permission.

Images CC licensed by Flickr user Lousiana Sierra Club.

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