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Proper Green: Turn Out The Lights

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A reader tells us her friend leaves the lights and TV on for her pets and wants advice on making her stop.

It is wise to apply the oil of refined politeness to the mechanisms of friendship. ~Colette

ear Proper Green:

I’m having a disagreement with a neighbor who I also consider a good friend.  If we go somewhere together, she leaves her house with lights and TV blaring, even if no one else is at home. I don’t do this.  I feel it’s just wrong to waste electricity.  She says she doesn’t want her pets to feel lonely, and she doesn’t want to come home to a dark and quiet house.  I think she’s being silly. She is a grown woman and shouldn’t be afraid of the dark.  Plus I think she is actively hurting the environment.  I’m considering simply turning lights off myself as I’m leaving her house.  How do I convince her she’s wrong?

ear Friend:

You can’t. And frankly, she is, as you say, a grown woman, capable of making decisions for herself.  What if the situation were reversed?  Would you like her to come to your house and tell you that you must leave lights on when you leave because it is unsafe to come home to a dark house?  Or that you are harming your pets by not providing company for them when you are away?  It is not up to you to tell her how to behave in her own house.  Your job is to be her friend.   What you can do is lead by example, which you seem to be doing.  And, you can offer help if she requests it.  You can say, “I’d be glad to come inside with you when we return, and help you get the lights turned on.”  Rather than ridicule, try compassion.  A little sympathy might go a long way toward helping this woman look at her environmental habits in a better light.

About Proper Green

The “green movement” is a relatively new one. And because it’s so new, ideas about what constitutes proper behavior within the movement are still evolving. But we think it’s important to establish some guidelines to help smooth the way.

Proper Green is (at least we hope) a blog about good manners in a green world. And while people often confuse “etiquette” with “manners” - the former deals with social custom, i.e., which fork to use or how to introduce your niece to your husband’s cousin at your step-sister’s second wedding––the latter is an expression of respect.And that’s what we’re going to focus on.

Good manners, like our planet, need care, attention and dedication. We hope you find inspiration and answers here.

Do you have a question for Proper Green? Send inquiries to Questions may be edited for clarity and length.

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About the Author
Proper Green
Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and... more

  • rebecca w. 6 years ago
  • Thomas L. 6 years ago
  • Laure R. 6 years ago
    We always shut off all our lights when not at home.
  • Kimberly W. 6 years ago
    Our family tries to cut down on using electric lighting. During the day we open the curtains/blinds and use natural light. Small LED lamps can be used for directed task lighting as needed. As a disabled Veteran, I am home most of the day and I and dog can live without TV. I work on sewing and quilting and I use an iron that automatically goes cold if not used within approx. 3 mins.

    We rarely leave home in evening however we (myself and young daughter) do leave a light on, for safety.
  • Cheryl H. 6 years ago
    We always try to have as few lights on when we are in a room. When we leave, the lights are turned out. We are also using the more energy efficient light bulbs. We do have security lights outside the house that go on whenever there is movement in the area. These stay on for a few minutes and then turn off.
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