Experts have said we need to walk 10,000 steps each day. Now we need the same rule for carbon footprints.
In recent years, we have been told how many footsteps to take and how many veggies to consume each day. Reminded by our smartwatches, it’s not advice we can simply forget. And just as our virtual companions have made our lives easier and healthier, it’s time we did Earth the same favour by monitoring our carbon footprints.
For those not familiar with this puzzling term, it is a measure which covers everything from gas and electricity usage to how we contribute to greenhouse gas emissions by spending a weekend at the Lake District or enjoying a cheeky cup of Caramel Macchiato.
And while we have been urged to go vegan – or at the very least, flexitarian – to take trains instead of planes and to browse the rails of secondhand shops instead of Primark, calculators designed to track your personalised carbon score have been popping up on the Internet like little hummus bars.
Now there are almost as many user-friendly carbon footprint trackers as there are diet apps.
“In 2020, we helped an average user reduce their travel and food-based emissions by around 17%,” says Josie Stoker, the co-founder of Capture app. Inspired by health and fitness tracking apps, but unable to find one for carbon emissions, she and her team set out to revolutionise the way we think about our carbon footprint, transforming users from ‘climate worriers’ to ‘climate warriors’.
For Good displays how you are doing on your carbon footprint on a calming green to alarming red scale – the universal language to communicate meaning and urgency. It even non-judgmentally chides us by telling us how many planets are needed to support the lifestyle we lead – if everyone on our planet lived like us.
Energy Lollipop, or “’Fitbit’ for the planet”, as they call themselves, places households in a local leaderboard, rewarding top-performing households with a badge for the family next-door to be jealous of.
Why, then, have most of us never heard of carbon footprint-tracking apps, let alone used one?
“I simply don’t think calculating carbon footprints is a thing that people want solving on a daily basis,” writes startup–adviser Nishul Saperia in the final passage of his eco-friendly app investigation. The problem, he reasons, is that most people struggle to relate to data on an emotional level. And while Nishul agrees that a “planets-per-person” metric is indeed universally appealing – even if not on the same level as, say, those darn Instagram ‘likes’ – the effort required to track your carbon footprint is sometimes akin to filing taxes.
Since none of these applications are yet able to see how many plastic bottles you’ve recycled or how many minutes you’ve leisurely spent in the shower, users still need to log these things manually. That is, of course, if we don’t forget.
In bygone years, to find out your jogging mileage you would have to look at the distance on Google Maps or track it with your car’s GPS system. This was as normal as monitoring your calorie intake with pen and paper, as normal as not feeling spiritually bonded to Fitbit’s pixelated blue flower – watered by your very own sweat.
All these new and magical applications did was organise our data and crunch the numbers, making them digestible and addictive. But would we still be chasing those goals if we couldn’t share them with the people we care about, get positive comments, and get everyone on-board?
Josie believes that’s the key: “Cracking a social element to the sustainability experience will help with a breakthrough, as it did with fitness apps (and Instagram!),” the co-founder of Capture says. “I absolutely feel they will be as popular sometime over the coming five years.”
Although five years might feel like a long time, considering the emergence of global warming with its already visible and worrying ramifications, Jodie reminds us, calmly: “the future is bright.”
With all the carbon footprint tracking tools at our disposal, the world of tomorrow really seems a lot brighter.
Read more on sustainability in our magazine Floreo