"The Joneses must die because they are killing us"

First up, an apology to anyone with the surname Jones. It’s not often I use such aggressive titles in articles, but it’s taken from a comment I saw on a blog somewhere and is based on the old saying of “keeping up with the Joneses”. The comment really made me stop and think how much perceived peer pressure or even just simple envy plays a role in the degradation of our environment.
As I’ve mentioned in other articles, we like to view ourselves as individuals, but we also have a need to conform to whatever group we see ourselves a part of. Additionally, we tend to like to elevate ourselves in the group. 
There’s nothing evil or particularly selfish in that per se, it’s natural – and I mean totally natural; you see it in nature in gregarious animals. Humans have just taken it to the nth degree.
Thinking of a personal example; I was recently in the market for a 4×4 vehicle and became interested in aspects of a brand in relation to my application, so I started looking at communities of owners of these vehicles. I was amazed at what they were doing with their cars; some pretty schmick stuff.
I was originally looking at a very cheap vehicle, just with the basics and a few additions to suit my needs, but then I started thinking, “wouldn’t it be cool to trick out my car like X has.. actually, I could also add..”. 
Then I started looking at other brands and thought “maybe I should buy the more expensive one as owners of Brand Y tend to cop a lot ribbing”. 
This is particularly amusing/disturbing/pathetic given that just a couple of years ago if you had told me I would have anything more than a passing interest in cars I would have laughed at you. A car was simply a means of getting from point A to point B and a few of the cars I’ve owned were so old they wound up at the recyclers once I was done with them.
I don’t see myself as a leader or a blind follower and gave up on trying to be cool years ago, but suddenly I was considering purchasing items for my wheels that I didn’t really need; or perhaps spending thousands more just to be one of the cool kids.
There were certainly functional optional extras among the items I was suddenly hankering for; but on careful reflection I realized I would probably never find a need to use them or would be very rarely used; no matter how much I tried rationalising it. 
Any item we acquire but don’t use is not just a waste of money, it has an even worse impact on the environment – because it’s waste; shiny, trendy, cool, expensive and even functional perhaps but essentially, still waste if we hang onto it.
Marketers have a term for this “keeping up with the Joneses” – it’s called WOM – Word Of Mouth. It’s one of the most powerful and cost effective forms of marketing around. Savvy marketers will sometimes identify leaders within a group and offer them a heavily discounted or free product as they know their peers will see them with it and it will spur on sales. 
Keeping up with the Joneses also has strong ties to perceived obsolescence – fashion and trends – where we might buy an item to replace something we have that works perfectly, simply because it’s in vogue and our neighbor, friend, colleague, role model, favorite celebrity or whoever has it.
Of course, not all keeping up with the Joneses is necessarily bad, especially if the Joneses you’re keeping up with happen to be very green ones :). Our peers can switch us on to more earth friendly ways to do things, or products that have less of an impact on the environment. We just need to be careful what aspect of the Joneses we keep up with.
But even when it comes to green products, we still need to ask ourselves whether we really need it, or even want it, or is it just a case of envy or our subconscious tendency to follow spurring on a purchase. 
It can actually be quite difficult to make the distinction because it may mean acknowledging we’re not quite the individual we think we are. I’ve certainly learned I’m not the single-minded person I believed myself to be. I’m not trendy by any sort of benchmark, but I’m obviously still susceptible to trends – something else to work on.
I’ve been reflecting on some of the people I’ve met over the years who were always outsiders because of one quirk or another and I now have a new found respect for some of those people. They were truly individuals, following their own hearts and heads rather than those of others; and that is a wonderful attribute when it comes to lightening our environmental impact.
So, rather than killing the Joneses, we just need to kill the aspect in ourselves that follows them blindly and it’s an important concept we need to relay to our children.
The upside to resisting the not so earth friendly lures of what the Joneses have isn’t just environmental, it will leave a lot more bucks in our pockets to spend on things we really want or need; or could translate to not having to work so hard to attain a comfortable lifestyle – downshifting.