Being a Good Green Neighbor Evaluating environmental performance at the neighborhood level can spur thousands into action

Credit: environmentally focused people are beginning to recognize the importance of bringing their sustainable initiatives a bit closer to home, literally. Initiating sustainable practices such as being an educated consumer, actively recycling, and reducing waste are valuable and worthwhile. However, evaluating the sustainability of your neighborhood and community can have a further positive environmental impact. Keep in mind that individual choices add up as a collective to create positive change.

Community Gardens

Promoting the establishment of a local food source reduces the amount of fossil fuels that are used in the production of factory-grown produce. You can either donate your own yard to the cause or look for a local vacant lot that could be utilized for a community garden. Getting your neighbors involved helps to stimulate healthy social interactions with one another, solidifying relationships that you may need to call upon in times of need. By establishing a bountiful garden, you are promoting cleaner air with a reduced need for the transport of food, while also growing plants that emit fresh, clean oxygen back into the atmosphere.

Water Use

Start a trend by tearing up your English-style lawn and tossing it into your compost pile to use later in your community or personal garden. Redesigning your landscaping to hold only native plants and establishing rock walkways will greatly reduce the amount of water that you use, if any at all. Ideally, choosing native plants for your area will not require having a sprinkler system. The amount of precipitation that you receive in your area should be enough to sustain them. If you can contribute to combating the world’s water crisis by simply xeriscaping your lawn, the choice should be easy.

Energy Efficiency

When assessing the amount of energy you are using in your own personal home, consider requesting a home energy audit. A home energy audit will reveal where your home is losing heat in the winter and cool air in the summer, where it is uselessly draining energy and the improvements that can be made to minimize energy waste. If you are going to make an appointment to have an energy audit done, ask your neighbors if they would like to have one done as well and make it a neighborhood affair.

The same can be done with an introduction to the conversation of installing solar panels. Oftentimes solar installers hold informational meetings where they invite numerous people at a time to dispel solar myths. Offer to hold it in your own home and encourage others within your community to make the switch to solar. It may be expensive up front, but it will pay for itself over time.


If having a lawn or backyard is not of much importance to you, you may consider looking into tiny house communities. In addition to not having to maintain or water a lawn, it lowers your carbon footprint in a number of other ways. It doesn’t require as much to heat or cool; minimal electricity use due to a small living space; and it only requires a small amount of land, limiting urban sprawl.

Living in a tiny house isn’t for everyone, although that shouldn’t limit you from considering downsizing to a smaller house. For families that have more than one or two children, a tiny house can become overly crowded and unliveable. However, that doesn’t mean that you need a 2,000 square foot home. The fewer square footage, the less energy it requires to keep you and your family comfortable throughout every season.

Ease of Transit

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the average passenger vehicle that gets 22.0 miles per gallon emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere a year. The more you can reduce the amount of time that you spend commuting as the sole passenger in your vehicle, the further that you can reduce your carbon footprint. Investigate if there are colleagues who live in your neighborhood or nearby that you could start carpooling with. If you live within a few miles of work, you could also start riding your bike or walking to work to lessen your environmental impact.

If you haven’t tried taking public transit from your new house, seek out the closest bus or light rail stop to your house. You may find you enjoy a leisurely walk to and from the pick-up/drop-off points and letting someone else take you to and from work each day. It is an excellent way to slowly get your day started, and it also offers some time to unwind before you get home. If there is not a stop located close to your home, start attending city council meetings and petition to have a stop added to local routes.

If your goal is to be an active participant in a sustainable community, start with educating your neighbors to get them onboard. The sustainable initiatives outlined above clearly are beneficial for both the environment and your personal well-being. The idea of making transitions to a greener way of life is easy to help others understand. By taking action in your local community, you can take pride in making a difference in your community and on the natural environment.