Environmentally sensitive marketing efforts were the hottest new thing just prior to the start of this current recession. Now though, they are seen as just another niche effort for many companies, this coming from the conclusion of a recent study from OgilvyEarth.
Can you blame the marketers — only 16% of consumers actually respond to green campaigns. Perhaps it is consumers’ perception of what’s driving the green marketing effort. From the company’s press release: “half of Americans think the green and environmentally friendly products are marketed to ‘Crunchy Granola Hippies’ or ‘Rich Elitist Snobs’ rather than ‘Everyday Americans’…. ”
The most telling stats from the study:
- While 82% of Americans have “good green intentions,” only 16% are dedicated to fulfilling them.
- 66% — or “the Middle Green” — are pretty much ignored by marketers.
- Overall, 82% have no clue how to estimate their carbon footprint.
- 70% would rather cure cancer than fix the environment.
Or could it be that consumers are a little smarted than those company marketers give them credit for??
Surprise, surprise to find the Vancouver Sun newspaper of all folks running an article that the Internet is killing the planet.
It really isn’t the stretch that some of you may think it is. Say you do a Google search. Your query kicks into action about 1,000 servers at various Google data centers. Those computers scan billions of web pages already in Google’s archives on your behalf and bring back a result (usually 1.8+ million other links you could access). When you take one billion daily Google searches, together with some 60 million Facebook status updates each day, and pile on 50 million daily tweets plus 250 billion emails per day, you’re using a whole bunch of electricity, and not just at your end of the computer.
The bulk of all this energy being used is from a fast-growing network of huge “server farms” or data centers that are the backbone of the Internet. These are the computers that make the Internet what it is, routing traffic and storing all of that ever-expanding globs of data. The data centers are hi-tech, hi-security facilities, some the size of five Wal-Marts, packed from floor to ceiling with tens of thousands of computers. Not only do all those computers have an insatiable appetite for energy, but they also require hi-capacity cooling equipment to prevent overheating.
For example, as the article notes — Apple’s 46,000-square-metre iDataCenter is about to open in North Carolina (which worked very hard to recruit them and the jobs it brings to their cheap electric state) will use an estimated 100 megawatts of power — as much as about 100,000 homes. Ah, but there is more: Google has a 44,000-square-metre data center already in the state that is expected to consume an estimated 60 to 100 MW. Facebook has a 28,000-square-metre facility under construction there that will use another 40 MW.
To put it another way, if the Internet was a country, it would be the planet’s fifth-biggest consumer of power, ahead of India and Germany, and that need is expected to nearly double by 2020. The Internet now consumes two to three per cent of the world’s electricity.
Now here is the kicker – all of those North Carolina data centers are powered by electricity generated from cheap and highly polluting coal power. Even Greenpeace likes to call the three facilities “North Carolina’s dirty data triangle.”
So after all the lectures from paper atheists on how bad the environmental impact is from print Yellow Pages directories, we need to use coal, one of the most polluting of all fossil fuels and the world’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the nirvana of a more efficient and greener world we are supposed to be getting from the advent of the Internet.
I hope the workers are driving to these data centers in a Chevy Volt. Then we’d have some polar bears really upset as their Greenland glaciers
One final thought – if Al Gore invented the Internet, how come he never blames himself in his rants about what we are doing to the environment??
When the City of Napa, CA wants to get the word out on how to recycle, how do they do that?? Of course they have a website (link). But they also rely heavily on the printed Yellow Pages which are delivered to every home, even some that get their noses out of joint that they receive them (full story):
Learn more at http://www.NapaRecycling.com or in the phone book yellow pages under “Recycling.”
This way the message reaches everyone, not just the Internet elite.
The print Yellow Pages of course. Channel 2 News in Reno, NV (link) offers this insight:
If you are looking for ways to go green, look no further than your phone book.
In all the yellow pages, you will find a 32 page guide with tips on how to become more environmentally friendly.
They include everything from where to recycle things like paper and plastic to information on the Lockwood Landfill. “Whether you want your phone books or not, everyone gets one so they are good information and you can also find information on illegal dumping,” said Maia Dickerson with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful.
With worries about jobs and the economy most on their minds, there has been a noticeable shift in consumer behavior regarding going “green”. Consumers are willing to buy things like energy-efficient products and services, but only if they see immediate savings.
The Shelton Group has just released one of their four annual surveys which indicated 71% of consumers required saving money as a reason to buy energy-efficient products. In a notable change from pre-recession surveys conducted by Shelton (2006 and 2007) when consumers often cited “to protect the environment” as the primary reason, now far fewer chose that reason (55%) or “to protect the quality of life for future generations” (49%).
“Americans are concerned about their jobs, their homes, and their bank accounts. They’re now more focused on saving money than saving the Amazon,” said Suzanne Shelton, president of The Shelton Group, which conducted the study. “Yes, conserving energy is the greenest thing anybody can do, but consumers are not buying more efficient products because they want to save the world. They want products that can save them money in the long run.”
The survey also indicated that consumers indicate they are more likely to take a number of energy-efficient measures after learning they would save over the long term. For example 44% are likely to buy a programmable thermostat (32% already have).
According to a recent Yankelovich survey of 2,763 consumers about their environmental attitudes titled “Going Green”, a mere 34% of consumers indicated they feel much more concerned about environmental issues today than just a year ago.
J. Walker Smith, the president of Yankelovich noted in the company’s press release that “…while consumers are highly aware of environmental issues due to the glut of media attention… ‘going green’ in their everyday life is simply not a big concern or a high priority.”
Mr. Smith also indicated that consumers are far more knowledgeable about green than they’re generally given credit for. According to the Survey:
- Only 7% of consumers believe Al Gore’s “10 Myths” in his heralded “An Inconvenient Truth.” and that it’s already too late to do something about climate change
- Only 8% agree that the warming that scientists are recording is just the effect of cities trapping heat rather than anything to do with greenhouse gases
Applying these results to print Yellow Pages, the true inconvenient truth is that the advertising placed in these products results in nearly $500 billion in commerce each year. That’s business which is critical to the existence of many small businesses, generates jobs, and is truly a local boost in communities of all sizes.
As reported in USA Today, a four-day meeting of the American Psychological Association in Boston had some 16,000 people attend to explore how people think about environmental protection.
Among the most interesting findings:
- Walking outside rather than inside (even just 15 minutes) tends to make people feel “happier, more energetic and more protective of the environment” – unless of course you are walking around downtown Los Angeles
- Negative feedback about their ecological footprint undermines their environmental behavior – I assume the approach of the beatings will continue until you get it right don’t work?
- Psychologists report that people are conscious that they should be doing more to protect the environment, yet they are confused about what to actually do. What a surprise – see prior post on this
- News stories that include global warming skeptics seriously undermine the public’s concern over climate change. Say what? Guess people really don’t want to hear the facts?
The relevance of this item to the Yellow Pages industry is that the printed books delivered to the doorsteps of every household are an easy target because people are not informed, numerous erroneous facts have proliferated the Internet, and their perceptions are different than the reality of how this consume and use information.
The industry has a lot more educating to do.
I’m happy to see that Al Gore has finally found some real meaning in his life as the new poster boy for the environmental movement. It had to be a crushing personal blow to know he lost the election for President to George Bush (yes, Al you did lose, no matter how many times they count the votes). To then bounce back to focus on issues that are arguably more important is wonderful, but somehow I still smell something that’s not right in this whole discussion.
So it was not really surprising to receive the following info from a now disappointed very eco-oriented buddy. It is a comparison between two homes:
House #1: In one month this fine residence consumes more energy than the average American household does in a year. It is a 20 room mansion (not including the 8 bathrooms) heated by natural gas as well as a pool, pool house, and a separate guest house, all heated by gas. The average bill for electricity and natural gas runs over $2400. In natural gas alone, this property consumes more than 20 times the national average for an American home. This house is not situated in the colder areas up North or in the Midwestern‘s snow belt area. It’s in the South.
House # 2: This home was also designed by an architecture professor at a leading national university. This house incorporates every “green” feature current home construction can provide. The house is still a good sized one — 4,000 square feet with 4 bedrooms. I sits on a high prairie in the American southwest. A central closet in the house holds geothermal heat-pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground. The water (usually 67 degrees F.) heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. The system uses no fossil fuels (e.g. oil or natural gas) and it consumes one-quarter of the electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from shwes, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the house. Surrounding flowers and shrubs native to the area enable the property to blend into the surrounding rural landscape.
Want to guess who owns which houses?
HOUSE #1 is outside of Nashville, Tennessee; it is the abode of the environmental evangelist himself — Al Gore.
HOUSE #2 is on a ranch near Crawford, Texas; it is the residence of the President of the United States — George W. Bush, the man whom many insist has done nothing to further environmental efforts.
As the old saying goes – “Do as I say, not as I do.”
That truly is the inconvenient truth in this case.
Sure, everything you see, read, and hear is about “going green”, being “eco-friendly”, “environmental consensus”, etc. etc. etc. But the bad news is that the average consumer doesn’t have a clue what that really means.
The Shelton Group, a Knoxville, TN based ad agency that is suppose to specialize in energy efficiency and sustainability (now there’s a new twist), recently conducted a national study, the “Eco Pulse”, which asked consumers open-ended and multiple-choice questions about green issues. The findings suggest there is a whole lot of confusion out there.
Some of the major findings:
- Name which features a home would need to have before they would consider it green? 42% said they didn’t know.
- While 49% of respondents said a company’s environmental record is important in their purchasing decisions, only 21% used that information when making a product decision. Even worse, only 7% could name the product they purchased.
- “Given a choice between your comfort, your convenience or the environment, which do you most often choose?” Surprise (NOT). Most Americans put their personal comfort ahead of the environment – 46% chose comfort and 31% chose the environment.
- We love the media — 40% admitted to negative or ambivalent responses (“skeptical,” “irritated,” “guilty” or “unaffected”) to increased media attention regarding our impact on the environment
- We only do it to make us look better — when asked why most companies that adopt environmentally friendly practices do so, the most common response (47%) was “to make their company look better to the public.”
The message from this study is it is still early in the development of what “green” is or should be. It does offer all Yellow Page publishers an opportunity to make their print and IYP products a source for the valuable information consumers will need.
In today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required), was an interesting story that Pepsi has moved to reducing the amount of plastic it uses in its non-soda drink bottles. For example, the new half-liter (16.9 oz.) bottle will actually contain 20% less plastics than the one it is replacing. The thickness of the bottle will be reduced from 23.5 grams to 18.6 grams. The drinks affected are some of the Lipton ice teas, Tropicana juice, flavored Aquafina FlavorSpalsh and Aquafina Alive.
We bring this to the attention of Yellow Pages publishers because we mentioned in a recent post (A Bag is More Than a Bag) that Discovery Packaging was open to working with publishers on a reduced thickness delivery bag. Sounds like a real opportunity to be an innovative market leader and more environmental oriented.