Is Green the Feel-Good Color of the Holidays?

There’s one type of green Christmas that’s likely to bring joy to gift-givers and recipients alike, a new Canadian study suggests.

That’s one based on green consumerism — a push to buy gifts produced in ways that protect the natural environment.

For this study, researchers at Concordia University in Montreal asked volunteers how a number of green and not-green products made them feel.

The green products generally produced positive feelings, researchers reported. Those who listened to music on green-labeled headphones, for instance, said they enjoyed the music more than those who used conventional headphones.

“The warm glow is a good overall feeling,” said study co-author Onur Bodur, a professor of marketing. “It is found in other literature relating to pro-social behavior. You get the feeling when you help others and have a sense of accomplishment that gives you satisfaction.”

Participants also reported feeling a warm glow after using a green product, and those who felt isolated reported feeling less so, according to the study published recently in the Journal of Consumer Research.

The study also found that actually using green products, such as cleaning solutions, helped dispel a belief that such products were inferior.

The findings could have big implications for retailers.

“Imagine that the chair you are sitting on is certified bamboo, or the tablecloth at a restaurant is made of recycled materials and the utensils are made of wood,” Bodur said. “You can opt to use sustainable, green products that are more likely to improve your customer’s experience.”

However, retailers who try to cash in on such sentiment by exaggerating or lying about their green credentials could face a backlash, he warned.

“I believe consumers are becoming a lot more conscious of green attributes, despite all the confusion with regard to certifications of sustainability,” Bodur said. “The risk will only be eliminated when there is some sort of regulation or standardization of certification.”

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers tips on choosing greener products and services.