BOSTON, April 2, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Earth Day may be just around the corner, but consumers are buying with an eye toward "green" all year long. A record-high 71 percent of Americans consider the environment when they shop, up from 66 percent in 2008. Additionally, nearly half (45%) of consumers actively seek out environmental information about the products they buy, according to the five-year benchmark of the 2013 Cone Communications Green Gap Trend Tracker. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20111004/NE79797LOGO ) ACCOUNTABILITY VERSUS ACTIONEven as "green" becomes increasingly top of mind, Americans still struggle with their role in the lifecycle of products with an environmental benefit. Nine-in-10 said they believe it's their responsibility to properly use and dispose of these products, but action isn't aligning with intent:
Only 30% say they often use products in a way that achieves the intended environmental benefit
42% say they dispose of products in a way that fulfills the intended environmental benefit
Despite the lack of consistent follow-through, consumers are showing an inclination to learn more. Americans report they regularly read and follow instructions on how to properly use (71%) or dispose (66%) of a product. Forty-one percent said they perform additional research to determine how best to utilize and discard a product for maximum benefit. CLOSING THE GAP: ACCESS AND COMMUNICATIONSNearly all respondents (85%) want companies to educate them on how to properly use and dispose of products. But they identify significant barriers to doing so, as well. One-third of consumers (33%) cited not having the adequate resources, such as disposal bins and community access, as the primary reason for not disposing or using products as intended, while 20 percent stated they simply do not know how to do so. Consumer understanding of environmental messages also presents an obstacle. Although more than 60 percent of respondents say they understand the environmental terms companies use in their advertising, the majority continue to erroneously believe common expressions such as "green" or "environmentally friendly" mean a product has a positive (40%) or neutral (22%) impact on the environment. Fewer were able to correctly identify these terms as meaning the product has a lighter impact than other similar products (22%) or less than it used to (2%). Despite the attention given to product development and environmental marketing, consumer misunderstanding of "green" claims has remained flat at around 60 percent since 2008.