"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," said study author Thomas Macias of the University of Vermont (UVM).

The study found 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."Surprisingly, green outcomes were higher with neighbours than family relatives or close friends," Macias added.

Researchers blame the differences, in part, on the overwhelming similarity of loved ones due to shared cultural and socio-economic upbringings.

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 U.S. 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.

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, said the research.

The study was published in the journal Environment and Behaviour.

 

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