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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