You glance out your window and notice your neighbor Bill across the street, mowing his grass. Guiltily you realize that yours is now the longest lawn in the neighborhood. Oh well; at least you don’t have as many dandelions in your yard as the lady next door does. And nothing is as bad as the Dylan family’s beat-up clunkers clogging the street. Except maybe the strange color the Smiths are painting their trim…
Why is it that we care so much about these seemingly minor disruptions in our neighborhoods? Psychology Today’s Glen Gehere, Ph.D., shares the results of a study which claims that well-maintained neighborhoods are high on “social capital,” “a term that generally pertains to how well the people in a neighborhood demonstrate respect for the neighborhood and display markers of connections to one another.” In other words, it’s not so much about the ugly broken fence itself, but the lack of respect it conveys to the neighbors.
So we strive to impress our neighbors, to build on that “social capital.” And if we really want to impress them, we maintain our properties in the most environmentally-conscious ways possible. By doing this, we demonstrate to our neighbors not only that we respect them, but that we respect the environment – and that makes us look good.
In his article “Going Green to Be Seen,” Vladas Griskevicius argues that “green products can demonstrate to others that their owners are voluntarily willing and able to incur the cost of owning a product that benefits the environment, but that may be inferior for personal use.” That’s right: Even if a “green” product is more expensive or less effective than its chemically-laden counterpart, people may purchase it because it impresses the neighbors.
This is not to say that every eco-conscious person’s sole motivation is to appear altruistic. But when others see the measures you take to protect the environment, they will be impressed!
So how can you take advantage of this trait and be the most-admired property on the block? Here are a few ideas:
Some homeowners, desiring to become more energy-efficient, choose to install solar panels – but they put them on the side of the roof that faces the street, even if the opposite side gets more sun. Why? Because people can see it. So install some solar panels – and bonus points to you if they’re in full view of your admiring neighbors.
Drive a modest car.
Why do celebrities love the Prius? Because their fans like people who don’t show off. Obviously, they could afford a fancier, larger, faster car; but they’ve chosen to show restraint by purchasing something environmentally friendly. If your neighbors see you wrestling car seats and children into a Prius instead of a Subaru, they’re going to be impressed. Bonus points if you use a car-share or carpooling system.
Ditch the flowers.
Move your vegetable garden to the front yard, for all to see. Sure, it’s more likely that a passing jogger will grab one of your tempting tomatoes. But if vegetables help the environment, and local produce helps the environment even more, imagine how green you’ll look as you harvest your homegrown organic kale!
Sort your trash.
On trash day, you should have a large compost/yard waste container, a large recycling container, and a small trash bin – as small you can get away with. Show that you practice conservation in-home.
Of course, if you follow these tips, your primary motivation will be conservation. You’re not actually doing these things just to be seen; you truly want to help the environment. But in the process, it can’t hurt to show off your energy-efficient practices for your neighbors to see and admire.
Going green protects the environment. It builds your reputation. And best of all, it inspires your neighborhood to follow your example. I can’t think of a better neighbor than a “green” one!