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Peace and love for the planet drive baby boomers, survey says

People born before 1964 aspire to shop for eco-friendly and socially responsible products, according to an AARP poll.

Baby boomers may have retired their love beads decades ago, but changing the world heavily motivates their buying decisions, according to a poll by AARP Services and Focalyst research.

Seventy percent of people born before 1964 told pollsters they felt a duty to improve the world. "Socially conscious" shopping goals drive 54 percent of older Americans in the survey, which identified 40 million consumers as "green boomers."

Conventional wisdom may have it that only "eco elites" regularly buy green products. However, the least wealthy people surveyed were more likely to buy products for reasons of ecology and social responsibility. Fifty-seven percent of those earning $50,000 or less indicated such motivations, compared with half of those making three times as much money.

Supporting companies that give back to their communities and buying from local retailers were among the aims of the majority of green boomers polled. Customer service, quality of goods, and truth in advertising were also top concerns among this group.

However, only 41 percent called it worthwhile to pay a premium for organic products. That could be because organic food may be less eco-friendly than advertised, with the impact of importing produce taken into account, according to the study.

The green shoppers are more likely to stick with a consumer brand they already use, especially when it comes to soft drinks, laundry detergent and pet food. They expressed the least brand loyalty when buying computers and televisions.

The survey separated respondents into two categories: baby boomers and "matures" born in 1945 or earlier. The older group was far more likely to buy brands they considered environmentally safe.

The results of this survey of 30,000 baby boomers appear to contradict the findings of a poll of 1,000 people earlier this month, which found young adults more likely than boomers to make green purchasing decisions.

AARP Services is run by the American Association of Retired Persons, which has 39 million members. Focalyst specializes in market research regarding older consumers.