Knowing your neighbours is good for the planet

Social one-upmanship may help encourage more environmentally positive behaviour according to new research from the USA.

The study, published by Environment and Behavior journal, finds that people who visit neighbours are more likely to “keep up with the Joneses” on green behaviours, including water and energy conservation, buying organic fruits and vegetables and driving less.

The researchers also suggest that people who spend more time with family are less likely to adopt more planet-friendly action due to the similarity of loved ones shared cultural and socio-economic upbringings.

In contrast, neighbours are relatively diverse enough to expose people to greater amounts of new information, such as environmental issues and practices. And shared geography means neighbourhood discussions will naturally gravitate towards sustainability matters.

“This is an interesting insight,” says, Lauren Massey of Pelican’s environmental PR and communications team. “A lot of money has been spent on behaviour change campaigns to encourage more recycling, potentially their success could be increased by encouraging people to keep up with the Joneses.”

The title of the study is “Know Your Neighbours, Save the Planet: Social Capital and the Widening Wedge of Pro-Environmental Outcomes.” The study was co-authored by Thomas Macias and UVM graduate student Kristin Williams.

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