According to a recent BBMG Report, two out of three Americans would consider themselves a “Conscious Consumer,” that is, more likely to buy from companies that offer energy-efficient products and commit to environmentally-friendly business practices.
One in two Americans are even willing to pay a premium for products if they have proven environmental benefits. Consumers’ desire for green and sustainable products appears to be increasing, but holiday waste statistics call into question the validity of these claims. In the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. If we include all other waste, such as shopping bags, packaging and bows, in this equation, it means one million tons per week. So something has to give.
If consumers are becoming more environmentally friendly, how are they offsetting the potential for such waste? In the spirit of the holidays, here are a few ways that well-known industries have adapted to make themselves more appealing to the Conscious Consumer – and how the Concious Consumer has adopted the changes – during the holiday season.
Most people would assume that buying an actual pine tree for the holidays is harmful to the environment. After all, the trees are cut from nature, brought into our homes for the season, and then discarded immediatley afterwards. But contrary to popular belief, getting a real tree is actually the most effective way to go “green” during the holidays. Most trees sold nowadays were raised on farms, designated to be grown, chopped down and re-grown repeatedly. Artificial trees, surprisingly, pose the real threat to the environment. Most people only reuse their artifical trees for a few years then dispose of them. Since they are not made from recyclable products, they end up sitting in landfills for decades.
Statistics show the majority of consumers still chooses the “green” option of purchasing a live tree when it comes to Christmas festivities. In 2011, just under 31 million farm-grown Christmas trees were bought versus only 9.5 million artificial trees.
Electric Christmas lights have come a long way since their first appearance in 1882, but it wasn’t until 1998 that an environmentally friendly alternative was introduced: the LED Christmas light. LED lights are more expensive than regular Christmas lights, but use up to 90% less energy and are significantly more durable. Despite their cost, LED lights are gaining popularity. Even some of the most iconinc Christmas trees, such as the one on the lawn of the White House and the tree at Rockefeller Center, are completely lit by LED lights.
Once again, consumers seem to choose the green option when given the choice. Sales of LED lights have quadripled since 2006, and stores like Home Depot have devoted half of their Christmas light shelf space to LED lights.
The average American spends $800 on gifts during the holidays. Presents have become so commonplace that half of the paper consumed by Americans is used to wrap and decorate presents. Most of this wrapping paper eventually ends up in the trash, resulting in up to 4 million tons of garbage annually. Most people would agree that unwrapping a present is a lot of fun, but because it’s such a wasteful part of gift-giving, other options should be considered – and have been!
Fifty-three percent of consumers have saved and re-used gift wrapping paper and 20% consider not wrapping holiday gifts at all. The use of bags is also decreasing, with 27% of consumers using fewer plastic bags from supermarkets and other stores.
As consumers continue to look more towards green alternatives, it’s important to remember that this state of mind even carries over to the holidays. That should say something about consumer mentality in general. It’s no longer strictly about tradition, but also about being environmentally responsible (not that making these adjustments stray that far from holiday norms) and dreaming of a green Christmas.