Green Perceptions and Packaging

According to a survey from Generate Insight, reported by MarketingCharts, the Millennial generation (ages 13-29) revealed an extremely high level of education about green issues overall. However, while 76% of Millennials ages 13-29 feel it's very important or important for brands to get involved in the green movement, 71% of teens (ages 13-17) surveyed say if they had to choose between a less expensive product or one that "gave back" to the environment, they would choose the less expensive product. In contrast, the majority of older Millennials  would choose the more expensive brand that gave back in a green way:

Cola Brand Chosen (% of Respondents in Age Group)


Age 13-17



Brand A gives 5% of it's proceeds to an environmental cause




Brand B is less expensive, but does not give back




Source: Source: GenerateInsight, April 2009

The majority of Millennials surveyed found it confusing as to why products that are better for the environment are more expensive. The study noted that the extra cost (without consistent explanation) discourages the majority of shoppers from embracing and contributing to the green movement.

The study also found several other deterrents to Millennials living greener lives:

  • Products that require too much effort
  • Products that are too time consuming
  • Products that not convenient
  • Products that are confusing and difficult to understand
  • Families that are not involved in, supportive of, or knowledgeable about the green movement

Additional findings from the survey:

  • 74% of Millennials believe they can make a difference in helping Earth, but only 48% of 13-17-year-olds feel they can make a difference because the problems are too huge for them to move the needle
  • 87% of Millennials recycle; 84% turn off lights when not in use; 80% reduce water use; and 73% use energy-efficient light bulbs
  • The top three biggest hurdles this generation faces when embracing the green movement are cost (41%), proof that they're making a difference (24%), and ease of use ( 12%).
  • 76% of Millennials feel it's very important or important for brands to get involved in the green movement.
  • 79% of Millennials say that the internet educates them on environmental issues, while 85% of Millennials ages 13-17 state that school is their main source for eco-education

The study also revealed the top words/feelings that Millennials associate with the "green movement":

Words/Feelings Millennials Attach to the Green Movement (% of Respondents)


% of Respondents



















Time consuming






Source: GenerateInsight, April 2009


Janis Gaudelli, SVP and head of Generate Insight suggests that brands that present easy, yet effective ways for Millennials to reduce, reuse and refresh will empower this generation

At almost the same time, Elin Raymond, President of The Sage Group, Inc., presented the results of a study on consumers' beliefs and behaviors surrounding sustainable green packaging. The study found that consumers consider the authenticity and integrity of green claims to be essential, and they recognize greenwashing.

"Green is an organizational cultural keystone, a key brand attribute," Raymond said, noting that in the shopper's "eco-perception," a consumer packaged goods company, its product, and its packaging are an integrated whole.

Grouping respondents into four generational categories: "Millennials" (17 to 25 years old), "Gen Xers" (26 to 40), "Boomers" (41 to 55), and "Matures" (56+), Matures were found to be the most eco-friendly group, while Millennials showed the least proclivity toward green behavior.

The study showed that 89.7% of Matures always recycle, followed by 69.6% of Gen Xers, 67.6% of Boomers, and 56.8% of Millennials. Matures were the most willing to pay more for eco-friendly packaged products (44.8%), and 75.9% of Matures said the eco-impact of packaging has a "big impact" on their buying decisions. The only group that said the eco-friendly nature of products has "somewhat of an impact" was Millennials, at 61.7%.

According to the study, consumers perceive the most eco-friendly packages and products to be:

  • Glass containers
  • Aluminum cans
  • Products sold in bulk
  • "Cardboard" packaging
  • Paper grocery bags
  • Concentrated liquids
  • Packaging made from recycled materials

Respondents identified non eco-friendly packages as:

  • "Single-serve anything"
  • Electronics and toy packaging
  • Heavy, hard plastic-packaged items or bottles
  • Anything not made from recycled materials
  • Anything that can't be recycled
  • "Overkill" packaging
  • Most plastic water bottles
  • Plastic foam
  • Takeout containers
  • Plastic can rings
  • Clamshell containers

To appeal to each generation with the appropriate green marketing approach, Raymond mentioned 12 strategies. For the two youngest groups, companies must create an online life/friends for their brand. "Millennials and Gen Xers are always linked online," she said.

Among Raymond's suggestions for marketing to the 17- to 40-year-olds:

  • Keep engaged via two-way social media. This includes hosting online contests, creating a Facebook company profile, and using Twitter to announce events, brand extensions, etc.
  • Help them try your brand by providing free/discount coupons on Facebook, MySpace, and other Web sites
  •  Integrate online and traditional marketing
  • Track what's said about your brand/product via
  • Sponsor environmental or cause-related events in target geographic markets

For Boomers and Matures, Raymond advised the following steps:

  • Focus on brand/product environmental attributes and education
  • Use green-event marketing in target geo-markets
  • Ask for e-feedback on product/brand and reward input

To review the information in greater depth, please visit Marketing Charts here, and the Sage Group here.

1 comment about "Green Perceptions and Packaging".
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  1. Robb Lewis from Visa, April 30, 2009 at 12:41 p.m.

    Interesting. In the end it still comes down to money...whether you're a user OR a manufacturer. I liked the part that the "Millennials surveyed found it confusing as to why products that are better for the environment are more expensive". Great question (even though it shows naivete as to how we manufacture products) and something we should all be demanding be addressed.

    This is also consistent with a recent Retrevo study showing consumers would like to be green as long as it doesn't cost them 'extra green' :-) Study is here


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