Last month, the research firm NPD Group reported that the green consumer trend is over. “It’s basically a card that a lot of people played while it was hot and trendy,” according to one industry analyst. “And it got overplayed.”

 Don’t count it out yet. The results of various other surveys disagree, as would any reasonably attentive consumer. Some marketers contend that the green idea is really just getting started — after all, the interest in green marketing continued to trend upward in 2007.

 It’s pretty obviously still on retailers’ minds. Starbucks has formed an Environmental Footprint Team to examine its environmental effects. Home Depot’s Eco Options offers some 2,500 items that are in some way more environmentally friendly than their competition, and last year, the company funded the planting of thousands of trees to offset the carbon emissions it created. Last fall, Duraflame introduced petroleum-free fire logs. Just weeks ago, Clorox spent nearly $1 billion to buy Burt’s Bees, a line of all-natural personal care products, and Green Works, a Sierra Club-endorsed line of cleaning products. Days ago, Wal-Mart announced it would be the first to put those products in stores around the globe.

Do the presidents and CEOs of all of these companies passionately care about the environment or believe in global warming — or are they making mercenary decisions based on consumer preferences? There is no way to know, and while purists might want to cast aspersions on their motives, the end result is the same — they are responding. They don’t need to agree with con-sumers to give them what they want.

They apparently discerned that the green trend is alive and well. Some 35 million Americans regularly buy products that claim to be earth-friendly, according to one report. Thirty-two percent of Ameri-cans reported having more of an interest in the environment compared to a year ago. Ninety-three percent of Americans believe companies have a responsibility to help preserve the environment. Trend watchers such as predict the green trend’s continued growth, advising businesses to
“Make it green, make it effortless, make it visible — if not bold, if not iconic — and don’t hesitate to point out your competitor’s polluting alternatives.”

In fact, some observers think the green phenomenon looks to be more than a passing trend. According to Inc. magazine, “… something seems different about our current green awakening. This time, the action is being driven as much by markets as morality. High oil prices, global warming, the sense that chemicals cause real harm and the earth’s resources are indeed finite — these are not so much charitable causes to embrace as they are problems that entrepreneurs can solve.”  

In this, the opportunities for agriculture are endless.
We may not see every consumer going green in the near future, but already they are a significant segment of the population, one that continues to grow, and one the beef industry can’t afford to ignore.