1 in 2 Young Consumers Recoiling From Overconsumption

April 30, 2012

eurorscg-attitudes-towards-overconsumption-april2012.jpgA high proportion of consumers worldwide feel they are spending too much on unnecessary items and are looking to scale back and live more simply, finds Euro RSCG Worldwide in April 2012 survey results. Young consumers (aged 18-34) in particular seem to believe that they have wasted lots of money on things they don’t really need, with 52% feeling this way, compared to 47% of the 35-54 set and 45% of those aged 55 and over. Half of the youngest group say they are tired of overconsumption (buying/consuming too much) and are looking to scale back, a sentiment shared by 54% of the 35-54-year olds and 57% of those 55 and over. In fact, 4 in 10 of the more than 7,000 consumers surveyed in 19 countries think they would be happier if they owned less.

Consumption Concerns Spread to Other Areas

Data from Euro RSCG Worldwide’s “This Digital Life” indicates that two-thirds of the global sample are concerned with society’s overconsumption in general, and many are worried about the effects of this excess. Dividing the respondents into 2 groups – prosumers (leading-edge consumers who are an indicator of what the mainstream will soon be doing and thinking) and mainstream consumers (84% of the sample) – the study found that 78% of the former and 73% of the latter are concerned about the growing gap between rich and poor.

Roughly three-quarters of the prosumers said they worry about both the lack of sustainable forms of energy and the world’s water shortages and lack of clean water. About 7 in 10 mainstream consumers feel the same way.

Environmental Friendliness Tied to Happiness

eurorscg-global-concerns-from-overconsumption-april2012.jpgThe study also reveals that scaling back is not necessarily regarded as a sacrifice by consumers, but rather a way to achieve a greater degree of happiness. Indeed, roughly two-thirds say they believe most people would be better off they lived more simply. And roughly three-quarters of prosumers and two-thirds of mainstream consumers say they feel good about reducing the amount of waste they create, and that making environmentally friendly choices in general makes them feel good.

Fewer Americans Going Green, Though

Despite these findings, April 2012 survey results from Harris Interactive suggest that environmental awareness in the US is on the decline. Comparing this year’s results with results from a survey it conducted in 2009, the Harris poll found that fewer Americans are engaging in environmentally-friendly activities such as reusing things instead of throwing them away or buying new items (61% vs. 65%), making an effort to use less water (57% vs. 60%), and buying food in bulk (30% vs. 33%). Similarly, the proportion describing themselves as environmentally-conscious dropped from 30% to 27%, as did the proportion saying they personally care a great deal about the current state, and future, of the environment (from 36% to 31%).

Even so, results from an Ipsos survey released in April 2012 indicate that one-quarter of American adults always proactively take steps to green their home or lifestyle, while an additional 60% say they sometimes take these actions, and only 15% say they never do.

Majority Won’t Pay More for Eco-Friendly Products

The Ipsos study also finds that although almost half of the respondents say they are more inclined to buy a product if it is environmentally friendly, 59%would be unwilling to pay a higher price for a product if they knew it was environmentally friendly. This same pattern was found among respondents to a Cone Communications survey released in March 2012: while one-third of those respondents said they at least regularly consider the environmental impact of the products they buy, the leading reason the respondents cited for being discouraged from purchasing environmental products was because they believed the product cost more than the traditional product (42%).

Other Findings:

  • According to the Harris Poll results, there has been a rise in the proportion of Americans who describe themselves as conservationist (20% in 2012 vs. 17% in 2009), green (17% vs. 13%), and environmentalist (16% vs. 13%).
  • Only about one-third of American adults said they are concerned about the planet they are leaving behind for future generations, a 21% decrease from 43% who reported that concern in 2009.
  • 3% of the Ipsos survey respondents said they only buy eco-friendly products. 40% said they buy these products when they are readily available and there is no big cost difference. Yet, 51% said they buy whichever products suit their needs at the time.
  • Women are 25% more likely than men to buy green products if it is convenient and the price point is right (45% vs. 36%). College graduates are 18% more likely than those without a college degree to do so (45% vs. 38%).
  • College graduates (46%), Northeasterners (48%), and adults under 35 (48%) are more likely than the average to say they would pay more for green products.

About the Data: The Euro RSCG Worldwide data is based on an online survey conducted by Market Probe International of 7,213 adults online in 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, the UK, and the US.

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the US between March 12 to 19, 2012 among 2,451 adults (aged 18 and over).

The Ipsos poll was conducted April 4-6, 2012. For the survey, national samples of 1,016 adults aged 18 and older from Ipsos’ U.S. online panel were interviewed online.

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