I heard about a new website by Philips, called “A Simple Switch.” They take a survey and based on your answers, they tell you what “color” your energy is, from bright green A to bright red G. Then they give you some ideas for how to improve your energy color “score” to make it more green. It sounded like a pretty cool idea, so I took the plunge and spent 5 minutes answering their survey. Granted, I am sure their primary goal is to sell energy efficient Philips products, but I was not very impressed.
To begin with, I am not a fan of Flash-using, musical websites, and this survey is completely that, so they lost a point right up front. If I wanted to really nitpick them, I could point out that Flash and music probably use more bandwidth than a plain ole text survey, and that extra bandwidth of course requires more energy to use…but I won’t. (I also won’t talk about how the main picture was taken using fake leaves.)
Some of the questions made sense and seemed relevant, but several were just too broad. When asking how many of something you own or use (light bulbs, for example), “None, Some, or Many” may look better in Flash than simple number ranges would, but they don’t really narrow the field enough. If I have 1, I can’t put “none”, but is 1 really “some”? Is 5 “some” or “many”? Also, some people take baths instead of showers, but it only asked about showers. When asking about alternative energy sources, wind wasn’t given as an option.
Then they wanted to know how many of each type of meal I eat per week. More than half of my weekly meals are completely vegetarian. On average, I’ll have small portions of red meat 1-3 times, chicken 2-3, with pork or seafood making an occasional appearance. That is out of all meals, not just dinner. However, when my results came, I was informed I ate “a lot of meat”. Does this mean that, according to Philips, if you are not vegetarian, you aren’t green and that your meat consumption counts for more than your gasoline use?
On the whole, I felt my results should have been between A & B, but according to Phillips, they were C, about average. I don’t think the average person recycles as much or drives as little as I do, or uses as many CFLs instead of regular light bulbs. People who read this blog, sure, but the average person? Most of America? I don’t think so.
Ultimately, my recommendation is that, if you want to know your carbon footprint, there are other, far better places to calculate it. Places where they aren’t going to try to get your email address or sell you a supergreen toaster at the end of it. If I had to score them, I would give them E for Effort, but D for Don’t waste your time.