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No.13 Keep Your Dirty Goods to Yourself

September 16, 2009
by Kiki Namikas
a digital phone

Carbon calculators

Now, to help you better green-shop, Chris Jones, a researcher at Berkeley Institute of the Environment, together with Daniel Kammen and Arpad Horvath, is developing an online carbon-tracking calculator called LEAPS (Lifecycle Environmental Assessment of Products and Services). Consumers input information about the cars they drive, the food they eat, the city they live in, and the goods and services they use. Then they’re given a summary of all the greenhouse gases they produce—their household’s carbon footprint—juxtaposed with the global and U.S. averages, along with options to offset their emissions.

“We have local data for the top 28 U.S. cities,” says Jones. San Francisco, for example, could adopt the calculator, provide local resources for reducing your footprint, and allow you to buy local off-sets—such as contributing to the purchase of solar panels for local schools.

The next version of the calculator, which will launch January 31, will list the carbon footprints of 1,100 goods, services, and food—you will even be able to compare a beer in an aluminum can to a beer in a glass bottle. Once you’ve made your choices, the inventors envision store kiosks where you can swipe an item’s UPC bar code to get the LEAPS data—and purchase offsets from the retailer. “Now we can have climate-neutral shopping,” Jones says. He imagines the calculator automatically updating your carbon profile on Facebook or a similar site so you can compete with friends to lower your footprint.

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