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Consumers would pay more for eco-friendly plants


October 8, 2014
By Dave Harrison/Greenhouse Canada

Oct. 8, 2014, Gainsville, FL — People concerned with future consequences
of their decisions will pay up to 16 cents more for eco-friendly
plants, a new University of Florida study shows.

While 16 cents may not seem like much, researchers see any willingness
to pay more to help the ornamental plants industry and the environment
as good news.

Previous research has investigated the effects of perceived long-term
consequences on people’s environmental behavior, including recycling or
using public transportation.

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So UF food and resource economics assistant professor Hayk Khachatryan
wanted to understand how differences in people’s perceptions of long-
and short-term consequences affect plant preferences and purchase
decisions.

Vineland involved in study

For the study, 159 people bought plants at experimental auctions at
Texas A&M University, the University of Minnesota and the Vineland
Research and Innovation Centre in Ontario, Canada.

The participants were recruited through Craigslist and community newsletters.


Researchers studied differences in what’s called “consideration of
future consequences” ─ the extent to which consumers consider potential
outcomes of their actions ─ and how that affected their willingness to
pay for edible and ornamental plants.

Specifically, the study focused on their preferences for plant
attributes related to sustainable production methods, container types
and origin of production.

Eighty-eight of the 159 participants were deemed concerned about the consequences of their purchases.

Sixteen cents more

The study showed they were willing to pay up to 16 cents more for plants
grown using energy-saving and sustainable production methods, sold in
non-conventional containers as well as plants produced locally.

Some people recycle, exercise or diet, actions that take time to see
results. Paying for long-term environmental conservation is a bit like
working out or jogging, Khachatryan said.

“When you exercise, you don’t see the benefits right away,” he said.

Similarly, the benefits of pro-environmental production practices in the
ornamental plants industry may not produce immediate impacts.

Thus, consumers’ plant choices may depend on how much they consider
future versus immediate consequences of their choices, said Khachatryan,
a member of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences who
conducts research at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Centre in
Apopka.
 
Offsetting higher costs

The price increase is relatively low, but even 16 cents can help retailers offset their costs, researchers said.

Some larger retailers may go through thousands of plants in a short
period, and that can add up quickly, said Ben Campbell, a University of
Connecticut extension economist, and study co-author.

A garden centre or retailer may have a thin margin between production cost and the sales price, Campbell said.

By adding 16 cents per plant ─ the amount some say they’re willing to
pay for eco-friendly plants ─ the margin can increase considerably, he
said.

That makes garden centres and other retailers more profitable and, perhaps more sustainable.


The study is published online in the current issue of the Journal of Environmental Horticulture.


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