Eco Game Makes Calculating Your Carbon Footprint Fun

There are so many carbon footprint calculators out there that I was initially reluctant to try out American Public Media’s Consumer Consequences game. Could this one really be any different? Heck yeah—it’s entertaining. As Kiera Butler points out in a review in the current issue of Orion magazine, this is “a slick, animated adventure.”

Here’s the gist: “The Earth couldn’t support its 6.6 billion residents if everyone lived like a typical American. Consumer Consequences  will tell you how many planets it would take to support your lifestyle on a planetary scale and share some ideas for making your ‘footprint’ a little smaller.”

Ok, that’s a little heavy. But once you click ‘play,’ the first step is creating your avatar (mine has blue hair and cat eye glasses). Then you answer questions about areas of consumption: your home; the energy you use in your home; the waste you generate at home; transportation; food; and shopping. After you enter info in each category, the game adjusts the number of planets accordingly.

My final score is 2.7—the number of Earths we’d need if everyone lived like me. The number is sobering, but not as bad as I’d expected (thank you Park Slope Food Coop for stocking local and organic food, and New York City for making recycling so easy, providing extensive public transportation, and offering shoebox-sized apartments). Still, there’s definitely room for improvement, and the game makes it easy to see where I can make changes that will lower my score—eat out less, cut back on the number of flights I take.

Apparently, the urge to better one’s score is a common reaction, as Butler found when she called up Joellen Easton, an American Public Media producer who helped develop the game.

Joellen’s totally nice, and not appalled at all by my mortifying score. She’s gotten a lot of feedback from the quarter of a million players who have completed the game so far. “We’ve heard from people who use six Earths,” she says. “They’re horrified. Then they come back a few months later and leave a comment saying they’ve made changes, and their score’s gone down.”

To see how you measure up, click here.

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