Be a Good Neighbor
Taking and Creating Cues for the Environment Where You Live

What do you see when walking or driving around your neighborhood? Do you notice when someone gets a new car, cuts down a tree, paints their house? When you notice changes, does it influence your choices? For many of us, neighbors’ choices factor into our own behavior.

Neighbors Influence Neighbors
An internet search of ‘neighbors influence neighbors’ will bring up lots of research focused on this topic — how do neighbors influence political stances, how much energy neighbors consume, health choices, car choices, yard care and beyond.

What does this social science topic say about humans and the environment in particular?
Consider this handful of studies and article headlines about yard care, energy consumption and streamside home ownership:

“Neighbor peer pressure may be linked to increases in yard fertilization and irrigation across several climate regions of the U.S.” - National Science Foundation

“Our research suggests that whether you believe your neighbors care about energy conservation is an important motivator for how you consume energy.” Harvard University

“Landowners’ neighborhood friendships directly influence [riparian] buffer implementation willingness.” - Journal of Landscape and Urban Planning

According to the National Science Foundation, households in the U.S. take up nearly four times as much land area as farmed corn. That is a lot of land, and that fact leads us to the common saying: "If everyone does a little, we can all do a lot."

So, if neighbors play a big role in influencing neighbors and we have plenty of land to work with, each and every one of us can create a positive impact by making changes where we live. For example:

  • Reduce or eliminate the use of fertilizers and pesticides in your yard.
  • Reduce or eliminate mowed areas. Create a meadow or plant more trees and shrubs
  • Plant native plants for pollinators and wildlife.
  • Install rain gardens or swales to absorb stormwater runoff.
  • Leave grass clippings in place or use clippings for compost.
  • Keep a street storm drain free of debris.
  • Plant a riparian buffer and/or establish a ‘no mow zone’ if you are a streamside property owner.
  • Use reusable grocery bags
  • Reduce the amount of trash put out each week
  • Share your choices with neighbors if the opportunity comes up!
Surely, with so much household land in the U.S., we can make a collective difference in water, air and soil quality just by setting an example and following the example.

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