Socialising with your neighbours leads to more planet-friendly behaviours than spending time with friends or family, a new research has claimed.
People who socialise with 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, researchers said.
“These findings suggest that our neighbours play a unique and key role in getting people to act on climate change,” said study author Thomas Macias of the University of Vermont (UVM).
“Surprisingly, these green outcomes were higher with neighbours than family relatives or close friends,” he said.
Researchers blame the differences, in part, on the overwhelming similarity of loved ones due to shared cultural and socio-economic upbringings.
“This similarity provides emotional benefits, but limits our exposure to important new ideas,” said Macias.
In contrast, neighbours are relatively diverse enough to expose us to greater amounts of new information, such as environmental issues and practices. And shared geography means neighbourhood discussions will naturally gravitate towards sustainability matters.
To identify predictors of green behaviour, researchers used the 2010 US General Survey, the largest and most recent national collection of Americans’ environmental attitudes and behaviour.
They compared green outcomes with three variables: personal relationships, generalised trust and participation in community organisations.
“Neighbours can be important role models. Backyard conversations, sidewalk exchanges and neighbourly visits may be some of the best ways to learn about environmentally friendly practices,” Macias said.
The study found that socialising with neighbours is positively linked to a set of environmental behaviours, namely, buying chemical-free fruits and vegetables, using less water, consuming less household energy, and driving less.
Generalised trust in others is positively linked to a willingness to make personal sacrifices for the environment through green taxes, higher prices and standard of living reductions.
Researchers also found that hours watching TV was negatively associated with a willingness to make standard of living reductions for the benefit of the environment.
The study was published in the journal Environment and Behavior.