Which of the 4 Eco-Personality Types are You?

Which of the 4 Eco-Personality Types are You?
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Which of the 4 Eco-Personality Types are You?

This is the 3rd article in series of 6 on how to increase your eco-influence by 60x.


Once you know what stage someone is in, and the strategies that will work for that stage, the next step is to laser-focus your approach to the individual’s unique eco-personality type.

Jacquelyn Ottman is a renowned green marketing consultant and the author of The New Rules of Green Marketing, along with many other books.  Her company has advised Fortune 500 companies, including: GE, Johnson & Johnson, and Procter & Gamble, along with the US EPA Energy Star Label.  When I read her book in 2011, something clicked.

Ottman writes of her 4 green interest segments:

[E]ven the most eco-aware consumers tend to prioritize their environmental concerns… [We] derived the segmentation from empirical evidence and offer it as a supplement the NMI (Natural Marketing Institute) segmentation.

Ottman 4 Deep Green Segments

NOTE: The Natural Marketing Institute is the leading research group on environmental consumer behavior, and we will discuss them next week.

Notice that Ottman isn’t replacing NMI’s work, but offering us a supplement – an added bonus.

She’s saying that the greenest of green consumers have clear priorities.  Their eco-personality lends them to be a one of 4 types: a Resource Conservator, an Outdoor Enthusiast, a Health Fanatic, or an Animal Lover.

But what about non-fanatics?

I truly believe, and experience has taught me, that everyone has potential.  They are an environmentalist-waiting-to-happen, and deserve to be treated as such.

To support this, I like to look at history.

As civilizations have evolved around the world over time (from hunter-gatherers to agricultural tribes to villages to states to empires to nations) we have progressed in one direction.  Longer life.  More complex social structures and technology.  Civil rights for increasing groups of people.  And greater scientific awareness of our planetary ecological impact.

Influenced by society, individual develop through similarly progressive worldviews — from magic to mythic to rational.

It occurred to me that if the greenest consumers end up in 4 segments, they likely had that potential from an early age — it didn’t magically appear when they became aware of environmental issues.  So, I began to trace those 4 segments back to their origin.

In this way, Ottman’s research (while great for helping businesses sell environmentalists more stuff) could be useful for what I wanted — environmentalists everywhere to increase their ability to influence all of those “environmentalists-waiting-to-happen.”  In other words, persuading for the planet.

4 Eco-Personality TypesTYPE 1 – Health Focused

No one starts out a “fanatic.”  But people do care about their health from an early age and demonstrate subtle behavioral and verbal hints.  Where a fanatic may run marathons, someone with potential likely takes walks or eats vegetables (likely from a box store grocer).

TYPE 2 – Happiness Focused

Animal lovers are usually born — you know it from a young age.  But some come to support animal protection later in life.  Those people tend to empathize with others and have an interest in social issues.  They care for children and try to give a voice to those perceived as under-served.   With time, animals — especially those exhibiting human emotions and expressions — begin to benefit from their inner sense of justice and fairness.

TYPE 3 –  Resource Focused

Conservation may not be everyone’s first cause.  But many start out from meager beginnings and are taught the value of thrift.  Being raised on a farm makes one resourceful, hording things for future use.  A need for efficiency and a do-it-yourself attitude are great indicators that someone may be heading in that direction.

TYPE 4 – Recreation Focused

Outdoor enthusiasts have usually experienced a place they love threatened by environmental harm.  Those with potential likely recreate outdoors, but have limited environmental awareness.  They might ride ATVs, rock climb, hike and camp, or hunt and fish with little thought to preserving their playground.

Confused?  Here are some helpful hints to clarify:

  • Your friend is a runner, but on trails.  Ask them why.  She may tell you how much she loves being outside (recreation) or that this is the only group she could find that paces at the desired heart-rate (health).
  • Your boss wants to donate to a habitat restoration project.  Inquire further.  Is it because she feels it’s unfair we have destroyed wild animals’ homes (happiness) or because she believes in ecosystem services that we humans can’t replicate without spending a fortune (resources).

Asking good questions, and active listening, are your two best friends.


ecofluencePRO Part 3: Types & Tips go into tons of details that I can’t list here.  It includes the 5 Levels of Commitment within each Type; how to identify; and good activities, sources of information, and organizations to suggest.  It even spells out the values driving this type, which you can use to translate your own cause into a language they will resonate with.



Adam Hammes is the executive director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, a consultant, author, and motivational speaker. He specializes in helping businesses and sustainability professionals with environmental and social performance.

Check out Adam's new book on Amazon, Audible and Kindle: Sustainable Business in Iowa.

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