Peer pressure is defined as social pressure by members of one's peer group to take a certain action, adopt certain values, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted (dictionary.com).
Every person in society has been under the influence of peer pressure since they entered their first social setting. Whether we want to admit it or not we all want to be accepted and fit in, whether it’s with our friends, co-workers, family, etc. There’s always one group we strive to belong to and because of this need to belong we are influenced by that particular group’s belief structure.
I know within my circle of friends I’m definitely perceived as the most pro-environmental person. People around me feel obligated to recycle when I’m in the room, tell me about an “environmental” action they just did, or defend something they believe is “un-environmental” just because I’m around. I very much try not to nag, plead or cajole my friends into becoming more environmentally friendly but I think my mere presence places a bit of a “big brother is watching” shadow on their behaviours. For instance, I’m still trying to use our car as little as possible so my girlfriend and I try to walk whenever we can. It makes going to dinner parties more fun as we don’t require a “DD” and therefore we can both enjoy the evening. We arrived at a recent dinner party and the temperature outside was a cool -22 C. We received the usual comments from friends “wow, you two are crazy! It’s cold outside. How long did it take?” We smile and nod and shake it off as no big thing but shortly after those friends that live closer than we do to the party start explaining to us why they drove. And honestly I feel guilty that they have this obligation to explain why they didn’t walk themselves. I mean sure I think it’d be great if they walked but it’s a life choice everyone has to make on their own and I don’t want to force anyone into it. I try to lead by example but it seems with the world view focussing on the environment my example puts pressure on my friends to comply. Now I can see this pressure and have noticed it as more and more examples of various explanations are offered to me explaining why this person isn’t recycling, or this one drinks bottled water, or this one drives everywhere. This does show me that my friends and family are aware that their actions may not be environmentally sound, but is my influence changing behaviours or just causing an invisible barrier?
A reverse of this influence is when I join friends and family in recreational or other activities that I know are bad for the environment but do have a good degree of fun to them. I try to live by “green ideals” but then I do enjoy snowmobiling, boating, car trips, weekend vacations to Toronto and Minneapolis. I feel that if I decline to participate in these fun activities it sets me apart from this social circle and it’s not something I want to do. So I find myself enjoying these activities then making jokes about doing environmental penance to make up for these guilty pleasures. So the influence of those around me reduces my “greenness” as I strive to keep tightly bound within these circles of friends and family.
So again I ask, is peer pressure good for the environment?
Page last updated on Wednesday, February 16, 2011