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July 23, 2013

Myrtle Beach eco-columnist wants to know if you know your neighbors

LIVING GREEN for July 25, 2013

Who are the people in your neighborhood? Have you ever noticed them? Do you ever think about asking them to borrow a ladder or a cup of sugar? It’s sad that we have neighbors that we don’t even know anymore.

According to a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center, 28 percent of Americans don’t know any of their neighbors by name. I admit that I used to be one of those. I’d wave awkwardly and smile, wondering if they knew my name. Then, I’d retreat into my house, hoping not to be bothered.

Two years ago, my husband and I moved further outside of a traditional neighborhood, but we have never been closer to our neighbors until now. When we were building our house, our new neighbors would come out and chat with us. Then when we moved in, one of our neighbors brought us a rosemary plant as a gift. Now we celebrate our lives together with random dinners and nights out by the fire. We’ve all become close friends. And some days, although my husband will say most days, I text most of my neighbors whenever I see something abnormal in our area, such as an unknown car or strange animal. Yes, I am one of those people. But hey, call it what you like, I simply call it the neighborhood watch, but at least I know my neighbors by name.

So why am I writing about this, you ask? Well, I personally consider networking with neighbors as an opportunity to live a greener lifestyle. One night, we needed soy sauce and rather than run to the grocery store, which by the way, is 8 miles from my house, I asked my neighbor for her bottle. That was so much easier and greener, than hopping in the car and using gas just for a single $2 item.

Neighbors are an amazing resource that we should all take advantage of. Not only can you borrow condiments and tools, but you can also share the chance to have a yard sale together or combine parties. Other ideas may be to consolidate errands, like when someone is coming home from work and running by the store asking if you need anything, which is extremely helpful if you live out where I do. You can also do a plant swap, if you both garden or a food swap, if you are awesome at one dish and your neighbor at another one. When you pool your resources together, you save money and time in a big way. Neighbors are also important in emergency situations. They can keep an eye on your place while you are away, they can watch your dog or cat and they can help in times of need. Sometimes it’s just good to know that someone is there for you and I don’t know where we’d be without our neighbors, whom we consider our close friends.

Online there are some companies that offer neighbor-like services. Just Share It ( www.JustShareIt.com) provides a listing of cars, boats, and motorcycles that you can rent from people in your area. Sharers list their price and the Just Share It company takes a 35 percent cut. Seems like an interesting concept, but I’m not one to consider allowing random strangers to rent my old beat-up Nissan that has barely withstood small children and high mileage.

Another company, Neighbor Goods ( www.neighborgoods.net) gives folks the opportunity to borrow items, just like sharing with your neighbors. For example, need a ladder one time, yet you don’t want to buy one for $50? Borrow one from your neighbor through this Web site. Want to lend out your dusty bicycle and earn some cash? Share it online. Typical items that get borrowed frequently include bicycles, ladders and sleeping bags. There was not a Neighbor Goods Group in Horry County last time I checked, but anyone can start one.

Having a strong sense of community also adds value to our own lives. Everyone wants to feel connected and valued, so actually knowing your neighbors can help with that, too. Hopefully, if you don’t already know your neighbors, maybe you will meet them or get to know them better. You never know when you could use a neighbor and conversely help a neighbor in need.

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