Monday, February 23, 2009

Or (better yet), run these numbers...

We've been on the subject of calculators programmed to help quantify - or, in the case of our house, feel REALLY bad and guilty about - the size and relative scope of our carbon footprints on beleaguered mother earth.

Thanks (and a hat tip) to Rio Loco for directing me to this alternative: The US EPA calculator.

This one has much to recommend it.

First, unlike the previous one, in addition to the adverse impacts, this calculator also weighs and measures activities - like recycling - that have net positive effects and applies that data as offsets to (reduce) the total. More importantly, it includes a lifestyle and product-use section proposing minor changes to ordinary behavior, then illustrating, in hard numbers, the impact of those small changes in helping to reduce net global carbon emissions.

Best of all, there are a dozen or so questionnaire fields inviting visitors to read, think about and consider not just what they can do but what they actually will do to modify their most energy-intensive behaviors. A change in driving habits? Commit to better fuel efficiency? Revise the thermostat settings? Install higher-efficiency CFL and LED light bulbs? Etc. - Then it calculates the total net reductions for each change the respondent agrees to make. (Yes! An online calculator that actually asks for a commitment to improve.)

A pretty nifty, if not-so-subliminal, marketing tool. And a classic sales strategy: Offer the upgrade, then ask for the sale.

Oh, and by the way, in case you're wondering: despite our perpetual, slavish recycling efforts, the new calculator didn't exactly tell us we'd gone from Bigfoot to Bambi. But it did drop us down by over 20,000 lbs. of carbon emissions. And, even better, it may have helped us identify more easily and accurately the areas in which we can - and really must - improve.

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