Americans' appetite for environmentally friendly technologies and consumer products is grossly underserved, with a potential $104 billion in sales this year, according to the 2007 National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS) released today. The annual survey -- sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and technology research firm Rockbridge Associates Inc. -- found that 71 percent of adults are interested in green technology, but there is a large gap between the number of products consumers own now and the number they say they would like to own.

More than half, $54 billion, is the potential for sales of "green" vehicles, including high-mileage, hybrid fuel, biofuel, and alternative-fuel vehicles. Researchers measured respondents' interest levels for each of the green product categories and calculated market value based on average selling prices.

"The key to tapping this huge potential market is targeting and appropriately addressing the green consumer," said P.K. Kannan, director of the Center for Excellence in Service. "Our research found that green technology trends are led by a small, yet powerful group of influencers that actively act as evangelists to a secondary group of adopters."

The NTRS classifies respondents into six segments based on their commitment to green technologies, their influence on others on being green, their skepticisms about green and their interest in technology. The survey finds that those most committed to the environment -- 10 percent of adult consumers -- are also very enthusiastic about technology. These "green tech leaders" are the same consumers who are often approached by others for advice on technology and the latest gadgets and devices. The researchers urge marketers to target this segment when introducing green products and services.

"There is a great opportunity for firms to not only target these green tech leaders to adopt their green products and services, but also use them to get the word out," Kannan said. "This market segment tends to be younger, heavier users of online social media and more enthusiastic about technology in general. They write blogs and advise others, and they also create a strong social networking effect that is critical for diffusing green technology to the larger market."

"Marketers also need to be mindful of their message," said Charles Colby, president of Rockbridge Associates. "Consumers are quite sensitive to companies that don't follow through on their promises. Firms that misrepresent or exaggerate the benefits of their green technology may find it backfires with consumer hostility or rejection."

 2007 NTRS Findings:

  • 83 percent of adults want to preserve and protect the environment
  • 42 percent of adults said products and services that help the environment are hard to find
  • 59 percent of adults say they like trying new technologies that help the environment
  • 56 percent of adults say gadgets designed to help the environment would be fun to own
  • 68 percent of adults like to do business with companies that are environmentally responsible
  • 72 percent of adults say they resent companies who say they care about the environment but are not sincere

Other findings in this year's NTRS include information on digital content downloading and e-service trends.