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Consumers’ opinions on eco-friendly furniture

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Consumers demand style, comfort and quality first…but a green angle can help put a product on their short list.

In fall 2008, Cargill BiOH sponsored a qualitative research initiative to gain insight into consumers’ opinions on furniture buying and the role of eco-friendly products, brands and marketing. Everyone surveyed had purchased home furnishings in the past 12 months or was in the process of purchasing. Participants were from the Charlotte, N.C., and Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan areas; each had a combined annual family income of at least $60,000.

Among the insights from the study, three trends emerged:

1. Style and comfort dominate the decision-making process

2. Though awareness is growing, buying eco-friendly furniture isn’t yet an automatic consideration

3. When comparable offerings exist, eco-friendly furnishings are preferable

Style and comfort rule

Consumers continue to regard style, comfort and price as the most important factors in their home furnishings purchase. When asked about their key purchasing criteria, participants commented about the importance of style and comfort.

“That’s real important at my age. It’s all about comfort. It used to be about whether it looked good. Now it’s about comfort.”

Eco-furniture isn’t top-of-mind, yet

Consumers say they focus their eco-friendly shopping on more disposable types of products. From water bottles to grocery bags, there are a variety of product categories that seem to more urgently demand environmental responsibility.

“When I think of environmentally friendly, I think of recyclable products, things that are smaller, plastics and containers and green cleaning products…but this is a big item and you keep it for a long time to begin with, so I think people just don’t look at it like the everyday disposable goods that are considered good or bad for the environment.’

When presented the opportunity to buy more environmentally friendly furniture, consumers respond

When asked their opinions about environmentally friendly furniture, consumer interest was piqued.

“I am all for saving the environment, but I never thought about it when purchasing furniture.”

Once offered, environmentally friendly furniture appeals

While they’re wary of unsubstantiated green claims and suspicious of greenwashing, consumers are interested in the genuine benefits of eco-friendly furnishings. When given the choice between two similar products, consumers said they would choose the more environmentally friendly option.

“If there were two couches side-by-side that were identical and they both felt the same, I’d pick the one that is more environmentally friendly.”

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