Buying green products may not be so environmentally friendly after all, according to researchers from the University Of California, Santa Barbara. Published in the spring issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review, the article, “There Is No Such Thing as a Green Product,” recommends allocating efforts to increase environmental sustainability rather than merely selling and buying as many green products as possible.

Roland Geyer, an associate professor at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, and Trevor Zinc, a former Ph.D. student at the Bren School, say that the concept of direct rebound explains the situation where a consumer uses more when a green product is involved. When consumers think these green products are more environmentally friendly, they tend to lose their inhibitions in using more of these products.

University of California - Santa Barbara

Roland Geyer, University of California – Santa Barbara

They cite that a hybrid SUV is not greener than a car that gets poor mileage. Hybrid owners may drive more than he normally does, which results to extra fuel use and more greenhouse gas emission. Still, this does not stop individuals to go for the hybrid SUV rather than the regular SUVs.

Consumers may also buy devices simply because companies emphasised its “greenness” even if these are basically non-essential products. This device may be greener than other gadgets but not purchasing it is still the greener choice.

University of California - Santa Barbara

Trevor Zinc, University of California – Santa Barbara


The researchers say that consumption of light-emitting diode, the most durable and greenest artificial light source, has increased significantly. However, people leave these lights on longer, uses it to light more areas and purchase bigger appliances, which will eventually render the energy-efficient lights useless in saving the environment.

The researchers do not say that these green products, per se, are worthless. It’s the habits of consumers that offset these products’ benefits. They suggest the approach termed “net green,” a business activity that addresses problems regarding producing, identifying and promoting green products, which will reduce overall environmental impact.

In another study, a Victoria University of Wellington researcher has found that being environmentally responsible takes too much time, effort and money. These factors make environmentally concerned consumers practice “un-environmental” consumption habits, contrary to their beliefs.