Finding the Environmentalist in the Consumer -- Look No Further Than Your Local Woods

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Research Unveils State Park Visitor Demographic: Loyal, Active, Environmentally Conscious, High-Earning Families

State Park Visitors: Where the Green Goes

Visitors and their recreation spending represent the core to the economic value of state parks nationwide

Companies seeking to leverage their environmental friendliness will find their ideal target market right in their local woods, according to five years of research on state park visitors compiled by Government Solutions Group (GSG), a marketing agency that facilitates cause-related marketing partnerships between corporations and state parks. These consumers purchase organic food twice as often as the rest of the U.S. and 61 percent make purchasing decisions based on a product or company's environmental impact (versus 23 percent of the general population).

Armed with these statistics, green marketers looking for loyal consumers need cast their nets no further than local waters to find high-income, highly educated consumers who care about the environment, and of course, are very healthy and active. Dubbed "America's Backyard," U.S. state parks draw repeat visitors within local driving distances, essentially using the parks as an extension of their own backyards to hike, bike, run, camp and fish in state parks, forests, beaches, lakes, mountain ranges and valleys.

"Visitors and their recreation spending represent the core to the economic value of state parks nationwide," said Joe Elton, president of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) and Virginia's State Park Director. "America's State Parks are economic engines that stimulate local and state economies. In Virginia alone, the annual economic impact reaches $170 million and nationwide estimates suggest that state park visitor spending is near $20 billion annually. Local governments in Virginia see state parks as "clean economic development" that brings outdoor recreationist and tourist dollars to their area. At the end of a visit, the families go home and the locality doesn't have to build schools and fund other services as they do for traditional economic development. They tend to see capital investment in state parks as preserving their areas natural, cultural and recreational treasures for citizens today and in the future."

According to Elton, the leaders of America's State Parks representing over 2,000 state parks across the country are exploring public-private partnerships that would benefit all state parks and ultimately enhance the visitor experience. Honing in on the visitor demographic allows agencies and private companies to better identify potential cause marketing programs that could raise money for enhanced visitor services.

Looking closely at state park visitor habits reveal many differences from the public at large. Even though these families have the same marital status and number of children as the general population, they choose to make more environmentally friendly and active lifestyle choices. They are more than twice as likely to enjoy activities such as hiking, volleyball, biking, camping, running, endurance sports and swimming. Gym memberships and environmentally safe product consumption skew considerably higher. In addition to healthy and environmental choices, they also demonstrate an affinity for technology and far surpass the general population in ownership of consumer electronic devices such as GPS, digital cameras, MP3 players and laptop computers. Moreover, 65 percent of park visitors claim to enjoy photography (versus 30 percent of regular population).

Highlights from the research include:

  •     Although the general population and park visitor share a similar desire to learn what companies are doing to have a positive impact on the environment; 61 percent make buying decisions based on a product/company's environmental impact (versus 23 percent of general population).
  •     When purchasing an auto, 29 percent consider the environmental and social policies of the manufacturer in their decision to purchase a vehicle (versus 15 percent of general population).
  •     State park visitors rank environmental issues "very important," over 2.5 times more than the general population (other choices offered "important" or "not very important").
  •     58 percent of park visitors attained a bachelor's degree or higher (versus 38 percent for the general population).
  •     $82,000 is the median household income among park visitors (versus $57,750 for the general population).
  •     68 percent of state park visitors come from within 100 miles of their home.
  •     78 percent visit state parks three times or more each year, making for a very loyal audience.
  •     State park visitation is on the rise across the country, with 730 million total state park visits in 2008, showing a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

"Weekend adventurers across the country - whether a beach-goer in California, hiker in the Adirondacks, or lake fisherman in Michigan - all reflect a concern for the environment and their spending habits back up their beliefs," explained Shari Boyer, CEO of GSG.
GSG creates cause marketing programs on behalf of state park agencies and have raised more than $4.6 million for state parks over the past five years. Support from corporate partners seeking environmental and socially responsible ways to engage consumers continued to grow, despite the economy.

About the Research
Since 2005, GSG has solicited market research data through Zoomerang online surveys to determine consumer perceptions about state park visitation. Fifteen of the top 20 major markets and 46 percent of total state park visitation are represented in their research, with data pulled from more than 1200 parks nationwide. For a full copy of the research data and a graphic presentation of top-line data, email

About GSG
Government Solutions Group (GSG) is a unique marketing company that facilitates cause-related marketing partnerships between corporations and state park government agencies to help reduce costs, increase revenue, and improve consumer relations. GSG is under contract with 11 state park systems across the nation and creates and manages win-win partnerships with corporations that have raised $4.6 million in cash and in-kind services since 2003. The company is based in Pasadena, California.


Meg Aldrich
Meg Aldrich Public Relations
(626) 825-0309


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