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Friends, neighbors, and environmental questions

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A group of business people sitting around a book, discussing environmental concerns related to behavior.

Social comparisons

A boy examining a leaf with a magnifying glass, showcasing his environmental curiosity.

Researchers have come from many directions to determine why people are slowly embracing climate change, global warming, and clean technology.

Hundreds of studies have been conducted to determine the (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcpdig.2023.06.009.)most effective messaging. The consensus is that environmental-related behavior concerns what the researchers call “social comparisons.”

Making decisions

Two women discussing environmental concerns on a couch.
A group of people sitting around a table in a lab discussing environmental concerns related to behavior.

Doing your research is essential, whether shopping for a new car or figuring out how to recycle a computer keyboard. However, the opinions of friends and family are equally, if not more, important. Michael Brownstein, an associate professor at the City University of New York, studies societal change. The professor says that humans form our behavior based on what others think and do. For example, you may wonder how effective solar panels would be in your home. Well, your neighbor has solar panels. How are they working out for that family?

In March of this year, researchers from the National Academy of Sciences reported their findings concerning the factors that influence environmental-related behaviors—in their studies of hundreds of people, accessing data ranked last. Setting goals to act more sustainably had a better ranking. However, the number one result was “social comparisons,” meaning that people compare the behavior of others to their own.

A reluctance to switch

Researchers say that people began to ponder climate risks because of “misinformation campaigns” from fossil fuel companies. But in 2023, the number of people interested in buying an electric vehicle (E.V.) was even lower than in 2021. According to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, only 19% of the survey participants preferred an E.V. to a gas-powered vehicle. People felt no personal benefit in changing this kind of cleaner technology.

Sometimes, the decision to switch comes down to money. For instance, many office building owners refuse to install energy-saving technology because they want to avoid taking on additional debt.

Given the public’s hesitation to embrace cleaner technology, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (. “Japan to Host 2019 Meeting of U.N. Climate Panel in Kyoto.” Jiji Press English News Service, vol., no. , 2018, p.)has encouraged governments to consider behavioral and social factors to push climate change.

A field of solar panels.


Starting campaigns

Finding trustworthy individuals who could help others switch to clean technologies has led organizations to create campaigns. One such effort is the Solarize Campaign in Oregon, where neighborhood “ambassadors” show folks how to go solar. For example, homeowners can watch live solar panel installations during community barbeques.

In California’s Bay Area, Acterra, a nonprofit, has the owners of E.V.s and e-bikes hosting “ride and drive” events. Again, these are members of communities where neighbors can ask questions and learn more about current (https://superhumanprospecting.com/choosing-an-superhuman-prospecting-outsourced-sales-development-rep/)clean technologies.

Influencing others

As humans, the actions we take are strongly influenced by others. You may begin to look more favorably on an E.V. if your neighbor buys one and can’t stop talking about its greatness. If you’re ready for a new heat pump, you might buy the kind your uncle recommends. If you’re becoming more aware of issues affecting our planet’s welfare, you might take your old cell phone to Urban E-Recycling because that’s what your coworker did. And because of your growing interest in environmental-related matters, you might set an example and prompt a friend or neighbor to follow in your footsteps.


A woman in a green dress holding a laptop shows her commitment to sustainability.

Mother Nature doesn’t want your old computers but we do. 


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