What's Your Ecotech Motivation?


The long, hot weekend got me thinking about motivation — and not only because I had none in the 100+ degree weather in the Labor Day L.A. sun. For example, I’ve known for awhile that I have a mild case of “Prius Envy,” but after reading this Newsweek article — which explains the “inconvenient truth” of Prius popularity as “hybrids are as much about posturing as propulsion systems” — I’m reflecting on the full spectrum of my motivation. In other words: How much do I want a Prius because I care about the environment vs. how much do I want people to know that I care about the environment?

I’d like to think that showing off my environmental values is only a product of my passion, but the truth is, it’s difficult to say what really drives consumption desires. There’s plenty of scientific research that suggests humans do good deeds as a way to attract a mate, which in turn compels them to show off such do-gooder actions. The New York Times recently likened the Prius to those brightly-colored rubber “issue bracelets,” worn to show the world the owner cares.

This article from Alternative Energy Stocks argues that because consumers want something that is conspicuously green, energy efficiency can often times be a tough sell.

“When it comes to selling energy efficiency to consumers, businesses need to remember that the financial and environmental outcomes are only a tiny part of most consumers decisions. . . People want to be seen to be green a lot more than they want to save a few dollars on gas.” — Alr Energy Stocks

For consumers, particularly at this early stage in the eco-goods game, I think there is a lot of truth to that. It explains the various companies that are using the Web-based social network effect to basically shame consumers into cutting back on energy. If the data is transparent and members of a peer group all know how much energy each other is using, then individuals have motivation to cut back.

It’s also the reason why eco labels are gaining popularity and green marketing is back in a big way, according to Joel Makower. He points out how advertising agencies such as Ogilvy and Saatchi & Saatchi are pushing green marketing campaigns as a competitive measure — effectively cashing in on consumers’ desire to show they want to buy green.

On the other hand, as the market for eco goods continues to grows, financial incentives will play an even more important role. For example, often times articles point to Brazil’s low cost biofuels as proof of the power of economics to push ecotech mainstream. Though there’s a big difference in the decision to buy luxury goods, like many hybrids tend to be now, versus needed goods, like fuel for a car. When eco technology becomes more efficient and cheaper, like solar is expected to over the next few years, the technology can be competitive with less earth-friendly technology, just on the price alone.

We ecotech consumers know we have a variety of motivations for purchasing these products — environmental passion, status, price, trend factor. Which ones hold the biggest sway for you?


Jesse Kopelman

This is why the Prius outsold the Civic Hybrid by such a huge margin. The Civic was a better car in a lot of respects, especially for suburban/highway situations, but it just looked like a normal Civic. Meanwhile, the Prius is not all that practical unless you live in or commute daily to the city, but it is a distinctive looking thing that makes it clear to everyone that its driver is eco-friendly.


A couple things. One is that I’d like the planet to be as beautiful or more beautiful when I leave as it was when I arrived.

Another thing is I’m sick of padding the wallets of the oil companies. I’d like to keep a little of that gas money in my pockets.

I’d like for the green technologies to be the same price or cheaper than their non-green(?) counterparts.

Liz Gannes

I like the low gas mileage, for sure. I’m not huge into gadgets and never buy the newest phones or anything, but in this case I like having access some of the latest and greatest car innovations. In terms of status, it’s not that huge a motivator, since the Prius just makes me feel like more of a Northern California hippie-yuppie hybrid. At least I don’t have an iPhone yet.


what about guilt? i think my biggest motivator is feeling that i am doing my part to help out…though i think my biggest influencer is price….if a prius was sub-$10k, i’d own one

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