How to Count “Green”
How does one measure green? The question of finding an accurate metric by which to measure sustainability is not a purely academic exercise. The most obvious answer is looking at energy consumption and energy efficiency.
Minnesota 2020's report, Sensible Incentives: Enabling Energy Efficiency in Rental Housing, measuring greenness has important implications for consumers in the state.
A piece over at the website Sustainable Cities expounds on this theme in reference to environmentalism and the “green revolution.” The article’s main thrust is that there is a significant gap in how consumers are able to identify and make sustainability decisions on a continuous scale. Part of the problem, they (rightly) claim, is the complexity of sustainability as a concept. SC describes sustainability as composed by a number of sectors: “It spans across social, economic, cultural and professional boundaries..."
Another problem is that a great deal of consumer information is simplified into a binary system of good and bad instead of a more comprehensive system of accurate scales. Partially, this is a result of messaging. Consumers for their parts, argues SC, are not apathetic about issues of conservation and sustainability; rather, they remain ignorant because of the complexity of the issue and industries’ failure to break down information more clearly.
To this end, there are a handful of organizations working on promoting sustainability and conservation in the state of Minnesota by providing consumers with clear, quantifiable metrics:
Metro Transit offers the clearest way of overcoming this obstacle. Its Trip Planner measures a rider’s impact by counting the CO2 reduction one gains by using their buses.
Meanwhile, CSX Transport, a railroad company, has also in recent years focused its marketing on the energy efficiency of rail transport. They invite potential clients to weigh carbon savings with a calculator on their website.
The point in all this is to make consumers aware of their choices' impact on the environment. To do so, we have to be able to compare alternatives. A green designation in of itself is unable to do so. By providing hard numbers, consumers can compare, contrast, and make better informed decisions on issues that affect their pocketbooks and their environment.