Poll finds most fall short on green gardening

Although we talk a big game when it comes to gardening more organically, we're not following through, according to the latest findings from the Garden Writers Association. I serve on the committee that formulates the questions and tracks consumer trends in lawn and garden.

In our most recent survey, conducted in October and recently released, we focused on consumer attitudes on organic gardening. Here's a brief summary from some of the findings:

Good intentions — poor execution

Eighty percent of consumers said they would use more organic products if they knew they could get an effective result for no additional cost. Sixty percent said they would use more organic products if they could be convinced that organics are just as effective as non-organic products.

Conclusion: We still have a lot of explaining to do to enlighten consumers on how they think about organics. First hurdle: organics do work; they just don't work exactly the same way as synthetic products. It's a different mindset. Will that make a difference for the crowd that needs it to work, like yesterday? Of course it will; we're kidding ourselves to think otherwise.

Supply, demand, confusion

Fifty-five percent of consumers say they would use organic products more if they could simply find them in a store. Now that's a disappointment. I wonder if this next finding is related: 53 percent say that they would use more organic products if they understood what to buy and how to use it. I can't help but wonder if some of those products are actually on the store shelves but just don't realize it.

Conclusion: This is an area of frustration for greenies. It's true. Green products in general just aren't getting the shelf space they need to turn over inventory. I understand from a retailer's perspective the need to move product. I get that.

However, I haven't seen a lot of great examples in my travels of stores that are making it any easier on the consumer to find and buy these green goods. Clearly, that's exacerbated by the fact that home gardeners are still so confused on what to buy and how to use these products. It doesn't help that a lot of the retail sales help (especially the big-box boys) are clueless when it comes to making appropriate recommendations. So I can't blame consumers when they throw their hands up in frustration and resort to their old ways.

The bottom line?

Most consumers have good intentions. But, they're telling us they still don't have enough information to know what to buy or if organic/natural products even work well enough to make the switch. And if they're still on the fence, the perception of higher pricing for green products isn't going to help lead to widespread acceptance of eco-friendly goods anytime soon — especially when consumers want them to work the same way as their current products.

Joe Lamp'l, host of "GardenSMART" on PBS, is a master gardener and author.

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