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Going green gets tiresome for some

Posted Oct 02 2008 4:21pm

Santa Barbara News Press
Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The onslaught of messages about being ''green'' has wearied a portion of the American public at a time when the movement can't afford to bog down, says one national expert.
Demands on the bottom line are getting businesses on board, but what the bandwagon badly needs is a simpler consumer message, said Suzanne Shelton, chief executive officer and founder of the Shelton Group, a Tennessee marketing firm whose clients make energy-efficient and sustainable-development products.
Shelton is in Pittsburgh to address green-building conferees. Her topic -- what ''green'' really means to decision makers who build budgets -- speaks as dramatically to household managers as to CEOs. The squeeze on the average family is tighter than it has been for decades.
''It is an economic issue for everyone,'' she said. ''A lot of people are at work on this because costs are going to get higher fast.''
Shelton's agency, in conducting surveys for clients, has seen ''significant backlash among consumers, eye-rolling stuff'' over the past few months, she said.
''As soon as we throw out a tagline with 'green' in it, people say, 'Oh, I'm so tired of hearing about 'green.' People are tired of the guilt. And when they think they have to choose between being comfortable and saving the planet, they think, 'I work hard. I want to be comfortable.' If that means turning the thermostat up, they will.''
She advises that people not think about saving the planet but about using and wasting less. The sheer expense of everything from gasoline to milk will force more people to do that.
''A whole chunk of people out there do not know what they are going to do if gas goes up much more -- and it will,'' she said.
A homeowner can save by turning off and unplugging electric items that don't need to run.
He can insulate his attic and save 20 percent to 30 percent of his heating bill, Shelton said.
Many people don't even realize how much power they consume in their homes. When in surveys they are asked to compare their use of electricity over time, most people say ''about the same,'' even though their ''plug load'' has escalated with additional computers, electronic games and larger TVs.
Coal-fired power plants, whose product is electricity, are responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gasses, she said.
''Life is full of choices,'' said Gary Saulson, who has worked on making his a greener home. He installed recycled recyclable carpet, flooring certified that for every tree sacrificed another was planted, a plumbing system that uses less water and drought-resistant landscaping. At work, he oversees PNC's corporate real estate department.
''The first step is that you have to want to do it,'' he said. ''People should do as much as they feel comfortable doing. There are lots of shades of green. Aspire to one of them.''

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