People who shop green are mostly doing it to be trendy or fashionable, according to forthcoming market research revealed Thursday by the University of Toronto.
The research concludes that when people purchase an electric car or install rooftop solar, that decision is often heavily motivated by a desire to appear trendy and fashionable to their peers, which researchers dub as “conspicuous conservation.” Economists previously calculated that car dealerships and manufacturers can charge an extra $7,000 for a Prius, a hybrid car, because of social status bonuses. That’s quite a bit considering the hybrid car starts at $24,200.
“Every era produces hucksters trying to sell snake oil,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute who did not take part in the study, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “But the particular type of flimflam being peddled varies from era to era. For ours, it’s labeling products green and environmentally sustainable.”
The research suggests that calling a product “green” makes consumers especially likely to buy it, but only if other people are likely to see them using the product. The relative popularity of environmentalism means consumers can signal they are “good people” if they buy green products.
“I think people buy so-called ‘green’ products because it’s trendy and it makes them feel like they’re do something to change the world, but in reality it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just a marketing tool,” Chris Warren, a spokesperson for the Institute for Energy Research, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “There’s nothing wrong with a fool and his money parting ways, but it becomes a problem is when we all have to pay for these foolish fads through a vast system of taxpayer-funded handouts.”
Labeling a product “green” or “organic” is great marketing, but going green can be very pricey, so companies often offload the financial burden onto the government. Going green also helps companies avoid the wrath of the environmental lobby, which regularly attacks companies it doesn’t like and supports companies it does.
“I’m sure some companies engage in this sort of marketing to avoid the wrath of the national environmental lobby, which loves to publicly bully companies into supporting its agenda,” Warren continued. “We see corporations make a lot of misleading claims in an effort to show they’re ‘going green.’ For example, when a products is said to have been made with 100 percent wind power, chances are that’s not the case.”
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