Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to combat global climate change would be to implement some kind of a carbon tax at a federal or global level so that the climate “cost” of various goods and services would be reflected in their respective consumer pricing. Considering that the U.S. Congress has regularly failed to pass a standard budget for the last few years, I’m not holding my breath for the establishment of such a carbon taxation system to happen any time soon.
While it’s a less perfect solution, the following social entrepreneurship concept might be effective as an interim strategy to help consumers better understand what they’re consuming.
An organization could create an app that shows users the CO2 impact of various consumer products—information pulled from a database in the cloud after a user selects the product from an index or scans a bar code or receipt with their phone. The carbon calculation would be enhanced by the geographic data available on a smartphone, and records of cumulative carbon impacts could be recorded for future reference, by the user and/or organization. While the carbon calculation data available for use by the app will be limited at first, app sale proceeds could fund further research and expansion of the carbon accounting database, and the overall enterprise. Social media integration might be the only advertising required.
Of course, carbon accounting standards need to be established and adopted, preferably on as large of a scale as possible. The organization pursuing this initiative would be well-positioned to influence those standards, as well as to educate the public and encourage proliferation of an established standard.
Bringing this information to the consumer level, rather than keeping it an aggregated regional level, could have an important impact on individual behavior. The last hotel I stayed at had a shower timer that calculated water consumption–my wife and I ended up competing for shortest shower, something we haven’t done since freezing our butts off during the winter in Albania.
I have no desire to execute this concept myself, but someone else should. Seems like a project for Google or Microsoft or Apple employee, or maybe a coalition of UW grad students 🙂 What do you think–could this concept fly?