I must admit to being a bit spoilt when it comes to neighbours. My nearest one is the best part of a kilometre away. Even so, due to the hilly surrounds and travelling sound, I will sometimes receive a text message with a “Bless you” after I’ve had a sneezing fit.
I have not always been privileged enough to live in a rural/forest area though and have, mostly, fond memories of neighbourly interactions in suburbia and cities. Regardless of the proximity of your neighbours, together you make up a community, and communities can, and often do, make an enormous difference to the world at large.
The following are ideas to encourage connection with your neighbours and your communities more broadly, thereby multiplying our individual efforts, resulting in better outcomes for our planet.
1. Make contact: If you don’t know who your neighbours are, find out! Be it the houses in your street, the units in your apartment building, or your colleagues at work. Reach out! You may be pleasantly surprised to find there is already a group of your neighbours working to improve the environmental impacts of your community. If so, join in and contribute. If not, it only takes one more person with an interest to start a group.
2. Share your knowledge: Don’t be backward in coming forward! Be generous with all that you can do in terms of ideas and information. If you’re from the GLAM sector, research is our ‘thing’. When you see something that could be executed better, don’t point, educate. Provide the means for your neighbours to stay informed from reputable sources. Run sessions for less tech-wise neighbours on cloud storage and receiving their bills etc via email, thus reducing paper consumption. (Also show them how to delete obsolete files – refer previous blog post on digital pollution). If you’re not comfortable being the one in front, find a community doing the kind of thing you would like to see in your, and invite them to do a presentation. People love to share their success stories.
3. Share resources and make it fun: Save money as well as the planet by sharing items that can be purchased in bulk with considerable savings, or jointly buy items that can be shared, such as energy consumption monitoring equipment. Share around your neighbourhood homes for two weeks at a time, providing everyone with the opportunity to ‘see’ where their electricity, and money, actually goes. Start a community garden, on balconies or the council verge if you have to.
4. Shift perceptions: You only need to alter the perceptions of 10% of resistors to make a substantial change. Therefore, if you see happenings in your community that you wish to change, start, or join a group, and aim to alter 10% of those happenings. Once you have achieved this, the numbers will climb exponentially, and then it will be your group asked to visit.
In summary, be neighbourly and be a force for and with your community. If enough communities do enough amazing environmental actions, governments and authorities will have to take notice.
As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.
By Donna Kellion, ALIA Sustainable Libraries Group Committee Member