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Current economy effects 'green' furniture buying

Posted on Tuesday, November 16, 2010.

According to the Sustainable Furnishings Council's third annual 2010 Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study, the current economy is impacting eco-friendly furnishings purchases. The survey measured consumer awareness, interest and behavior in issues related to sustainable furnishings with the support of World Market Center Las Vegas.

Overall, findings were strongly influenced by consumer concerns about the economy or their own financial well being. There were fewer respondents who had spent at least $500 on home furnishings in the past year than in previous years. This may reflect a plateau of consumer interest and motivation—or a sense of exhaustion with economic worries.

As in the prior studies, about one in four consumers are extremely aware and concerned about a range of environmental issues from toxic pollution to using up natural resources to deforestation with no clear winner. Another one in four claim to be very aware or concerned, meaning the "engaged" population is holding at about 50%. Many are taking action in a variety of ways from recycling at home to switching to CFL light bulbs, and over half purchased green products but purchasing of green home furnishings remains very low at 4%.

The leading influences on purchase decisions were long-lasting quality, affordable price and style with environmental concerns. The main obstacle continues to be a lack of awareness/availability; the top reason given for not purchasing and confirmed by low awareness (under 25%) of specific green options such as certified wood, rapid renewables or bio hybrid foams. This suggests a supply and marketing problem more than concept or product dissatisfaction. Additionally, there is an expectation that green products will or do cost more affecting their buying.

"Environmentally safe" is the preferred term for green products, suggesting health & wellness or safety claims may be most compelling. For purchasers of children's furniture, results showed a projected interest of about 40%, rising to nearly 45% among moms with kids at home. Sustainability does not appear to be a factor in buying gifts.

Interest for green home furnishings is high at 37%, qualified as a style they would like and priced about the same as other options. People are interested but unwilling to pay much if anything for the difference.

Complete results of the survey can be purchased for $49 by contacting SFC Executive Director Susan Inglis at susan@sustainablefurnishings.org.