Living Smaller – Make Friends With Your Neighbors

metal measuring cup with organic sugar

Run out of sugar? Ask your neighbors to borrow some.

“Bye mom, I’m going next door!”

“Can I go to David’s house to get Daddy?”

“Run across the street and get a cup of sugar.”

Making friends with your neighbors is generally a good idea. Life is better when you know the people who live around you and you can have a conversation with them. You don’t have to be best friends, you just have to get along.  That’s what they call being “neighborly”. If you know your neighbors they let you know when the police come to check out your alarm going off, they can help feed your pets when you’re away and they can lend you a cup of sugar when it turns out you’re short.

It’s very 1950′s to run across the street and borrow a cup of sugar instead of going to the store every time you need one, but you know what? It’s really green too. Is it really necessary to go to the store every time you are out of something? How much easier would your life be, and how much less gas would you use, if you could get salt, honey, flour or garlic  from your neighbor and then just replenish it next time you’re at the store, or better yet, lend them something they need to save a trip to the store? This isn’t just green, it’s a better way of life. However, in order to actually feel comfortable borrowing something, you have to know the people who live near you. 

We don’t just borrow food supplies, between the 4 houses that needed a wheelbarrow on our block this spring, just one had one, so we took turns using it. It started because our neighbor did a joint order of topsoil, compost and sand – which saved us all money, meant that only one truck had to come deliver to the area, and we all worked from the same piles rather than each having piles of dirt in front of our houses.  We’ve done more and more collaboration with gardening too. This year Laurie ordered potato starters and we each planted some and Elise had a seed starting party, which among other things, meant we shared seed packets. Even better, it meant that when we went away for 5 days I knew that it was easy to ask her to take my seedlings to her house, because she had her own to water daily too.

Perhaps my favorite way that my neighbors make my house feel bigger is that my children go spend time at their houses. I don’t have to call up and arrange playdates, I don’t have to drive them anywhere, I can just say “yes” when they say “can I go next door?” or “can I go across the street?” Even Jon has gotten into the act, he uses our neighbor’s office sometimes when he needs a quiet place to work. Sometimes its my idea and sometimes it is their’s, but it really makes our little house bigger when someone who is feeling crowded can just go to another house on the block. 

Borrowing/sharing tools is another way to spend less, store less and have more.  Jon often borrows tools from our neighbor which we don’t have (or he can’t find).  

In some places it comes easily to make friends with your neighbors, in other places its more forced. An easy way to start is to just come up with excuses to spend time outside. Then when you see your neighbors, introduce yourself or start making small talk. Sure it’s easier when you have kids, but it’s not necessary. Our neighbors that Jon borrows tools from and uses the office do not have kids, it took us longer to get to know them, but we did. In this case the husband commented on a political sign in our yard which turned into hours of conversations. If you’re stuck for somewhere to start try something that’s tried and true “hi, since we’re neighbors, I thought it would be nice to know each other.  I’m Alicia.” Sure it’s great if the overture comes with the traditional plate of brownies,  but it’s not required!

yellow and black 14V cordless drill

Need a tool?


Before buying, consider borrowing instead!

Are you friends with your neighbors? What do you share?

Happy Greening,


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Amazon Packaging FAIL

Why does Amazon insist on using a card board box to ship everything? Today I received a Windows Update Card (i.e., something the size of a credit card that has the license key printed on it) attached to a card board insert inside a much bigger cardboard box.

small plastic card packed in a big box

Why not use an envelope?

In all they used 260 grams of packaging to send a 16g credit card sized object that could just as easily been sent in an envelope.  The difference in impact for my one little package won’t matter much as I’ll recycle the box and packaging, but just thinking about how many small packages Amazon ships out every day, it adds up really fast.

Amazon has a system to give packaging feedback that we wrote about a few years ago and we’ll be doing that next!

I would liked to have gone to a local store to buy it, but the item I wanted was an older version and not available at any of the retailers I checked with near me, so I ordered it online.


Happy Greening!

 Amended 7/8/14: I should also give Amazon credit that they will sometimes ship multiple orders in a single package saving on the embodied energy in shipment and packaging.  I have been pleasantly surprised by this in the past.  To help support our blog, you can start your Amazon Shopping from our affiliate link and we will earn referral fees as a percentage of what you purchase.

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