Even if their pocketbooks are holding less green, a recent study shows that consumers are still making green choices in their homes, when possible. The 2009 Green Home Furnishings Consumer study was conducted by the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC) and sponsored by World Market Center Las Vegas. The study is the second annual wave of a national survey aiming to measure consumer awareness, interest and behavior related to sustainable furnishings. This year’s results were consistent with the results from 2008 and confirm that the economy has not dampened eco-friendly consumer interest. “There was nothing really good out there in the public domain that was current, and certainly not specific to the home furnishings industry,” says Jeff Hiller, president of SFC. “We wanted to determine how people were thinking about sustainability and how much they would be willing to pay. The study is about awareness and activation levels.” Hiller says the study gives unprecedented perspective into the consumer’s thought process, as it applies to sustainability and their homes. “This research has clarified some important trends,” he said. “Most critical is that there is a significant portion of the buying public out there in our markets that is very interested in at least hearing the story of sustainability in our product categories.” Among other findings, the study discovered the following: * Consumers are significantly interested in purchasing sustainable home furnishings, with two important qualifiers: If they like the style and it costs about the same. If both style and price are on par, more than 80 percent of consumers indicate some level of interest. * 50 percent automatically assume that a green product will cost more without any inspection. * Nearly half of consumers are relatively equally concerned about a broad range of environmental issues, from deforestation to unfair labor practices. * 28 percent of consumers are directly affected by indoor air quality issues, but 44 percent not directly affected think everybody should be concerned. On global warming, 44 percent claim to be very interested in doing what they can, like recycling at home, adjusting the thermostat, switching to CFL bulbs, using reusable shopping bags and buying a variety of green products. Hiller says that the facts gleaned from this study have the power to really make a difference in the sustainable furnishings industry. “It’s a supply issue, not a consumer issue. This research shows there is a ready market out there for products that are positioned as responsible, eco-friendly products that don't cost an arm an a leg,” he said. “Many, many options don’t cost any more than similar products that are not eco-friendly.” Hiller went on to say that bamboo costs less than other hardwoods and eco-friendly foams cost almost nothing more. During the recent September Las Vegas Market, another survey asked retailers and designers how important the purchasing of sustainable home furnishings is to their store or business. 80 percent responded such products are very to moderately important to their business. Additionally, the same buyers group was asked whether they were looking to purchase sustainable products while at Las Vegas Market and 55 percent said “yes” while another 21 percent stated they were “considering it.” Hiller said that this study is a kind of neon arrow pointing the industry towards what needs to be done. “It’s an awareness issue. Many people have the expectation that products making a green claim will cost substantially more,” he said. “It’s squarely back on us to develop these products and bring them to market, because in most cases it does not cost more.” World Market Center Las Vegas, which sponsored the study, has been aware of sustainability’s viability, and continues developing programs in support of eco-friendly projects. “With the eco-economy coming fast, we realize that there is an increasingly important need for our industry to have current information, which empowers both manufacturers and retailers to respond to the expectations of their environmentally-conscious customers,” says World Market Center Las Vegas President and CEO Robert Maricich. “Through a continued partnership with SFC, we are committed to providing education and showcasing innovation in sustainability, and are currently planning new, expanded initiatives for the February 2010 Market.”
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