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The High Cost of Going Green

Why Americans think environmentalism is too expensive

Elizabeth Romanaux considers herself "green." She recycles. She composts. But she won't pay a premium for an eco-friendly hotel room or cleaning products. "It isn't that I can't afford them; it just goes against my grain to pay more," says the 55-year-old communications consultant from Princeton, New Jersey.

See also: Save the world — and save money

consumers actively seeking out green products has flattened

Joe Zeff Design

Only 8% of consumers buy green goods most of the time.

Romanaux is among a growing number of 50-plus Americans rebelling against the expensive side of environmentalism, believing that value-for-money trumps value-for-planet. Most boomers who've never bought earth-friendly products say it's because the stuff is too expensive, finds Grail Research. While 85 percent of U.S. consumers report buying green goods, only 8 percent do it most of the time. And though 8 in 10 vacation travelers consider themselves "eco-conscious," only 1 in 10 bases his or her bookings on green considerations, reports marketing firm Ypartnership. Many are eco-cynics: 25 percent of people 55 and up think shopping green "makes no difference," compared with 13 percent of younger respondents, according to a recent poll by Crowd Science.

That doesn't mean our greenness is fading. We just want proof that a green product or service is "as effective and of the same quality" as alternatives, says Kate James of Grail Research. And we question why, if going green saves money, those savings aren't passed on. "Count me a skeptic," says Sally Herigstad, 51, a Honolulu-based CPA, adding, "$12 laundry detergent doesn't make the cut." So, even if we love the planet, environmentalism isn't always a green light for spending more.