Monkey see, monkey do

Back in mid-October I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about consumer habits in terms of making green choices. Turns out  that it isn’t financial incentives or more information that motivates people to adopt greener lifestyles, yet it is something more primitive and basic – several studies have shown that people were more likely to change their habits when they were under the impression that everyone else was doing it too. Peer pressure is a powerful tool.

But of course it carries a negative connotation as we can probably all remember as youngsters being advised by watchful adults not to give in to peer pressure.  When we give in to this type of peer pressure, it can most likely  be attributed to the fact that we don’t want to be left out.  Everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn’t we?  The WSJ article points out that the peer pressure in this case affects decision makers as it has become somewhat of a matter of guilt.  ‘If everyone else is being environmentally conscious then I am not only left out by not contributing, but I feel guilty for not pitching in’, thinks the culprit.

I have a hunch now that the reason why I saw many more people at the grocery store in my hometown in Madison, CT using reusable grocery bags was not because they suddenly felt that they had a personal duty to reduce the number of plastic bags that are thrown into landfills each year, but more simply because their neighbors were doing it.  I say this only because CT has not imposed a 5 cent tax on plastic bags, and even if they did the majority of the people in Madison probably wouldn’t notice, so it sure isn’t due to financial incentives.  I dare say it has actually become fashionable to carry around a reusable bag.  Madisonites, along with almost everyone else, are merely trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Natalie Portman sporting her reusable bag. "Doesn’t she look so shabby chic?"

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About Zanna Leigh

I am a born Wisconsiner, native New Englander, short term (and wannabe) European, vegetarian foodie, good music lover, public transit enthusiast and sustainability devotee in the DC metro.
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