Latinos Lead Other Ethnicities in Buying and Living Green

Livin’ La Vida Verde: Latinos Lead Other Ethnicities in Buying and Living Green
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Latest consumer research indicates that Latinos are livin’ la vida verde, surging ahead at shopping green and practicing eco-friendly efforts. More Latinos than non-Hispanic whites see global warming and climate change as real threats to our earth, facts which mirror current Latino buying trends, says Iconoculture.

According to the report, which cites a survey by Eco Pulse, Latinos are talking with their kids about green responsibility, looking for greener products, and are making more of an effort to live green than other ethnicities.

Attitudes among Latino communities indicate a gap between them and their non-Hispanic white counterparts, the report adds, citing data from the National Resources Defense Council. While a vast majority of Latinos polled (81 percent) see global warming as a reality, only 69 percent of non-Hispanic whites agree. Furthermore, while 62 percent of Latinos deem climate change as something that is “very bad,” less than half of non-Hispanic whites (41 percent) think so too.

What cultural factors contribute to Latino cultures’ greater interest than that of their peers in green practices?

Martha E. Galindo, president and CEO of language translation service Galindo Publicidad, Inc., says that respect for the earth is rooted in many Latino kitchens.

“Green food to Latinos means simply preparing it the old-fashioned way,” she explains. “[That means] no frozen meals, buying produce direct from the small market, no canned
vegetables, no canned fruits.”

Culinary traditions have stood the test of time, Galindo adds. “Flavor is very important and our grandmas and mothers cooked that way,” she notes.

While the report brings to light some interesting insights, the poll results should be considered “with caution,” says Sigal Segev, PhD, assistant professor in the Advertising and Public Relations Department at Florida International University. Segev’s research focuses on Hispanic consumer behavior and acculturation as well as green branding.

“When we look at Hispanics’ consumer behavior, we must see through the lens of cultural adaptation,” she explains. “In other words, the extent to which individuals are integrated into the host society will very much determine their preferences, attitudes and behaviors. In this sense, the more acculturated Hispanics are, the more green they become as consumers [through their] purchasing decisions and attitudes toward environment conservation.”

Segev adds that ties to the land influence Latino attitudes toward living and buying green, a point that Galindo also notes. Citing the Iconoculture finding stating that Latinos with agricultural background a “deep tradition of environmental protection, and they approach the issue with less cynicism,” Segev adds that this holds true, “especially attitudinally.”

Generally, Latino families have traditionally made it a habit to take care to watch water and electricity usage, Galindo says.

“You make sure you turn the lights off, and not leave the faucet running,” she maintains. “You just did. It was a matter of listening and not wasting these things. We knew while growing up that not everybody had access to tap water, or to 24-hour running water. It is a lot of common sense.”

That common sense, she adds, is a result of simply living closer to nature. “Some of the Latin people come from areas that are close to forests, and they feel very strongly about the care for the woods and the forests,” she notes. “Other [Latinos live] close to deserts, so [focus is on] water conservation.”

Segev agrees. “We might find less acculturated Hispanics that exhibit high conservation behavior—saving electricity, saving water,” she says. “This goes back again to the countries and places of origin from which they came and how available these resources were to them; in rural or remote areas accessibility to water and electricity is quite limited.”

However, she adds, the perception that living green may more expensive presents an obstacle. “When it comes to practices, money—how expensive it would be to be green—will play a role.”

“Reward for green behavior is important, so buying green will make sense to Hispanics, as long as they will be later rewarded in terms of saving money,” Segev maintains. “Buying more in order to save later will encourage green behavior.”

Price remains king with this demographic, she contends. “While they perceive positively the need to preserve the environment, they are also very practical and utilitarian-oriented and price is a key factor in determining actual behavior,” Segev says. “In other words, buying green is okay and preferable as long as the difference in price compared to the non-green equivalent is marginal.”

Which green products will be most effectively marketed to Latino consumers? “Not all green products are equal in the eyes of Hispanics,” Segev contends.

“While organic food is perceived as very favorable, but unaffordable, other product categories are less appealing in their green version,” she adds. “Green cleaning detergents for the home, cosmetics and personal care items (shampoo/conditioner/deodorant) are perceived lower in terms of their quality and ability to ‘do the work’ than the non-green equivalent.”

For example, green window cleaners are less trusted than the conventional, so Segev suggests an incentive: “Buy regular Windex, get the green for free—so they will be able to try it.”

The best way for marketers to reach the various segments of Latino communities is to target consumers according to their acculturation levels.

“Marketers need to segment this market bi-dimensionally: look at their level of acculturation and willingness to be a greener consumer,” Segev advises. “Marketers should first target those who are willing to go green and those who are open to a greener behavior and based on their level of acculturation, tailor their promotional strategies and tactics.”

For assimilated Latinos, she says that tactics used for the general population will be effective, while bi-cultural consumers will be more likely to react to messages that include in-culture cues such as “Spanish words, expressions, images or characters that will signal this target that this promotion is made for them,” Segev suggests.

For less acculturated Hispanics, she says advises promotional tactics that are heavily-grounded in their culture: “Spanish is essential.”

Word-of-mouth tactics and community activities along with having community opinion leaders endorse the green behavior would work best with this segment, Segev says.

For all segments, there are tactics that will be most effective to reach consumers. “The need to stress product benefits, added values and cost-benefits messages—they need to feel a tangible, immediate gain for their green behavior,” she explains.

“Marketers can start by promoting green products that are similar to the non-green equivalent in terms of price and stress the double benefit inherent in purchasing it: benefit to consumer and benefit to the environment—WITM: ‘what’s in it to me.’ Saving the environment is a nice idea but sometimes, everyday struggles in a relatively new culture are more likely to prevail.”

However, for many Latinos, Galindo says, much of green behavior has been ingrained and has become part of their way of life. ”You do not forget those lessons from your ancestors, even if you are fifty years old,” she concludes.

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