Half of Americans exaggerate their environmentally sustainable habits to impress others

“Greenwashing” is the new “catfishing,” according to new research. A survey of 2,000 general population Americans revealed half of respondents pretend to be more environmentally sustainable when other people are around. And 53% have exaggerated their environmentally sustainable practices specifically to impress others. The survey also revealed that 54% of respondents are less likely to practice environmentally sustainable habits if nobody can see them. But while a fifth of Americans surveyed admit pressure from society (20%) and not wanting to be judged (19%) motivate them to be environmentally sustainable, those aren’t the top reasons. Commissioned by Avocado Green Mattress and conducted by OnePoll, the survey found caring for the planet — and wanting to protect it for future generations — was the top reason for people being environmentally sustainable. That was followed by it feeling “like the right thing to do,” and environmentally sustainable actions making respondents “feel good.” Respondents also want to be positive role models and said their loved ones encourage them to be sustainable. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed agreed, though, that people’s motivations for doing so don’t matter, as long as they’re taking environmentally sustainable actions. “We only have one Earth, and future generations will judge us by the state in which we leave the planet,” said Jessica Hann, Avocado Green Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing and Sustainability. “When it comes to sustainability, it matters less what people think, and more that we all just do the best we can.” While some individuals may be guilty of “greenwashing” — working to present a more environmentally responsible image than is true — the survey also delved into this from a corporate perspective. Forty-five percent of respondents have purchased an item solely because it was marketed as sustainable, but only 27% are “very confident” they can tell when a company is genuine, versus when they’re trying to appear more environmentally sustainable than they are. This might be why 42% have purchased something, only to later realize the company they bought it from wasn’t as sustainable as it seemed. Even then, 70% said regardless of the truth, they feel better purchasing something that claims to be environmentally sustainable. That said, 79% believe it’s important to shop at environmentally sustainable companies, and 78% agree that more companies should be committed to environmentally sustainable practices. “Businesses know that customers prefer ‘green’ brands,” said Hann. “But it can be difficult to distinguish what’s ‘green’ from what’s greenwashing. We let our independent, third-party certifications validate that we’re operating at the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility.” FOR WHAT REASONS DO AMERICANS WANT TO BE ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE? ● I care about the planet and want to protect it for future generations ● It feels like the right thing to do ● It makes me feel good ● I want to be a positive role model for others ● My loved ones encourage me to be sustainable ● It makes me look good to others ● Pressure from society ● I don’t want other people to judge me WHAT “GREENWASHING” TACTICS HAVE RESPONDENTS SEEN COMPANIES ENGAGE IN? ● Using green imagery or buzzwords without actually implementing sustainable practices — 47% ● Highlighting one or two sustainable practices or products while ignoring other environmentally harmful ones within the company — 44% ● Ignoring or downplaying negative environmental or social impacts of products or practices — 40% ● Make vague or misleading claims about their environmental impact without providing specific details — 39% ● Using third-party certifications or labels that are not verified or have low standards for sustainability — 33% Survey methodology: This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Avocado Green Mattress between March 7 and March 8, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).