Scales of Green

GreenMeter I-Phone Application

Dec 03

Posted: under Green People.


You might own a car with great gas mileage and live in a super-sustainable city, but you still may not be getting around as sustainably as you could.  That’s because, in addition to your car’s fuel economy and your city’s road congestion, your own driving style can significantly impact the fuel mileage you actually get when you’re driving.  Lots of accelerating and braking wastes a lot of gas, by as much as 47% — check out these tips for more info on greener driving (  To help people drive more “greenly,” Hunter Research and Technology has released a “GreenMeter” that uses the I-Phone’s “internal accelerometer to measure forward acceleration and compute engine power, fuel economy, fuel cost, carbon footprint, and oil (barrels) consumption.” Drivers can monitor their acceleration and other indicators to improve their own personal fuel economy, regardless of what kind of car they ride in.

Transparency: *Brick

While the site describes how to setup and calibrate the application and users enter their own basic data (e.g. fuel prices, engine efficiency), very little if any information is provided as to how exactly the numbers are generated.  Without this information, the validity of the absolute numbers is questionable, although as measures of relative performance they may be useful (if they appear to generally respond the car’s acceleration, braking, etc.).

Governance: Monarchy (with Democratic Elements)

The application appears to be developed by a single individual, engineer and company owner Craig Hunter.  Some data must be entered by users, adding a democratic dynamic to the application, which allows for limited control over the application as well as creates the possibility of user-generated errors.

Coverage: Hedgehog

While relatively comprehensive in its coverage of fuel mileage factors, the application nevertheless has a narrow focus on only one environmental impact of automobiles — fuel use.  And from the perspective of the user, it does not assess other impacts of an individual’s lifestyle, such as use of public transportation, biking, etc.

This Scale’s “Greenness:”

The GreenMeter site claims it can “help evaluate your driving style to increase efficiency, reduce fuel consumption and cost, and lower your environmental impact.”  While all of this is true, it is important to remember:

1. The output data on fuel economy is highly questionable as accurate absolute measures of personal environmental impacts (e.g. carbon footprint) due to the lack of transparency into the methods behind the calculations.

2. The GreenMeter may nevertheless function well as a measurement of relative environmental performance over time, and may indeed help drivers reduce their environmental performance.

3. Driving efficiently is not the same as traveling sustainably – total miles driven, total miles travelled using alternative modes of transportation and total greenhouse gases emitted are still the most important measures of environmental performance.

* For an explanation of the Transparency, Governance, and Coverage “ratings” above, please click here.

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The Green Jedi

Oct 12

Posted: under Green People.

Obi-Wan Kenobi: For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice…The Force is what gives a Jedi his power.

Luke Skywalker: I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi…

Star Wars I: The New Hope

So you want to save the world, huh?  Well, you’re not alone.  As claims of environmental destruction, species extinction, and climate change have incrased over the last several decades, people around the world have become increasingly less content with waiting for governments and corporations to take action on these issues.  Instead, motivated by either guilt or hero complexes, or perhaps just a simple desire to “make a difference,” they have sought out ways to “act locally” while “thinking globally.”

Whether by protesting on picket lines and sitting in trees, supporting and voting for “green” candidates and ballot initiatives, giving money to and volunteering for environmental organizations, or changing their lifestyle habits and consumption patterns, these “Green Jedi” have sought to change the world through their own actions, one step at a time.

But like the original Jedi, one must be trained in the ways of the Force.  How do we know what actions to take?  How do we know how to wield our considerable power as citizens and consumers?  How do we know when to resist the Dark Side of environmentalism, by either becoming too radicalized or too complacent?  Who do we turn to train us, to answer these questions, to guide us in our quests to find our grails, to green our icebergs, to tame our Leviathans?

Many of us are, in effect, self-taught Green Jedi, learning from a wide range of sources that are difficult for us to identify and admittedly have varying levels of value.  We trust very few, but are still strongly committed to the general cause of environmental protection, and make our commitments on a case-by-case basis.

Some of us do not think of ourselves so much as environmentalists (much less Green Jedi), but nevertheless believe there is something fundamentally wrong about despoiling Creation and its waters and forests and creatures, and try to avoid actively contributing to such destruction where we can.

Still others of us do proudly wear the label, “Treehugger,” and take our cues from individuals or organizations that have met some bar of credibility and authority for us.   They appear to have at least some of the answers we seek, and can serve, as least imperfectly, as our Yodas and our Obi-Wan’s.

But we all, deep down, are often skeptical of these sources of our knowledge and inspiration, and are aware of their biases and weaknesses, and we wonder and fear whether anyone ultimately knows the right path.

This section of the website will look at a variety of efforts to provide guidance to individuals as we work to “green” our lives.  An increasing number of initiatives, from informative books and websites to personal eco-audits, are trying to help us find our way through the complexity of environmental issues at the personal and household level, a scale that is at once both clearly insufficient and obviously necessary for any meaningful change to occur.  We will explore how “greenness” is being measured at this scale, who is doing this measuring, and why.  We will look at these efforts in a historical context, both to the past for lessons learned and to the future for opportunities awaiting us, because the desire to improve the world, to personally contribute in some way, even infintessimally, to some concept of “progress,” is an old one, and one that will not go away anytime soon.

May the Force be with us…!

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