The world's first automated carbon calculator has been developed by London-based firm Carbon Diem using software that turns your GPS-enabled mobile phone into a tracker that can figure out whether you are walking, driving or flying -- and calculates your carbon impact based on the amount of travel you do using each mode. You don't have to do a thing. So will you?
Is knowledge of their carbon impact enough to spur people to make changes in their lifestyle? The way mobile phone applications are going, there could be lots of ways in future to tie this kind of tool with incentive schemes, but for now altruism is all there is.
But across the pond, a New York company called RecycleBank is making strides in tying residential recycling with financial incentives. Again, modern technology is what makes it possible: a truck collecting the waste for recycling from a bin in front of your house automatically weighs what it collects and uses radio frequency ID (RFID) tags in the packaging to identify what you are throwing out. RFID can track a product from manufacture to retail outlet, to your home; and now, through RecycleBank, it can see how many Coke cans get diverted from landfill sites. And the householder gets a financial reward for recycling, in the form of banked points that can be redeemed for products sold by the retailers that have signed up with RecycleBank, a bit like frequent-flyer loyalty programmes.
A concern with this scheme is that it could provide an incentive for consumers to increase their purchase of goods with packaging, but this is partially addressed with a monthly limit on how many points a person can collect each month.