For our Water, Energy, and Stuff categories, we measure the impacts of each action in six potential areas: the energy and/or fuel saved, the emissions prevented, the water conserved, the waste prevented, and the trees left standing. For our Health category, we look at the toxicity of the chemicals involved and the degree to which the action reduces your exposure.
Impacts are calculated relative to a conventional alternative. For example, the score for taking public transportation to work is based on the difference in per person fuel consumption between taking mass transit and driving a car. In these cases, we use averages—here it’s the average fuel economy and the average distance to work.
Our data comes from reliable third-party academic, government, and nongovernmental sources. These include peer-reviewed journals, Energy Information Administration data, and reports from organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists. When such data is unavailable, we may look to other sources or make educated assumptions (for example, the amount of coffee filters an office uses).
We include life cycle analyses (complete assessments of all of the eco-impacts of a given action, service, or product, from start to finish) when they’re readily available or when they constitute a significant portion of an action’s impacts. Much of the impact of reducing your meat consumption, for example, comes from saving the energy it takes to grow livestock feed. So when it comes to your favorite steak, we make sure to include this life cycle data.
Most actions earn points in only one category, but when there are substantial impacts across multiple categories, we’ll award points in others. Using a low-flow showerhead, for example, saves lots of energy by using less hot water and therefore earns points for both Water and Energy. The exception to this rule is in the Stuff category. Due to the fact that there are energy savings associated with nearly every action that reduces waste, we incorporate these into the Stuff scores and don’t award separate points.
We have one-and-done actions and repeatable actions in the platform. A repeatable action is something that you can do multiple times a day or week or month and earn a small number of points each time. Be aware that we cap repeatable actions so we can maintain integrity relative to the points associated with an already-formed habit over time. Already do something all the time? Just mark off the action associated with the well-formed habit and you will get the max points value.
All users start as a level one. As users check off actions, they earn points and can move up levels from One (1) to Ten (10). The more actions you take and points you accumulate, the higher your level. As you get further along, it takes more points to move up a level. To go from level 1 to 2 only requires a few hundred points, but to go from a 9 to 10 takes a few thousand. Becoming a 10 is not easy, but it is very impactful! You can always check your Profile to see how many points are needed to make it to the next level.
You can track the total impact of any team you belong to on the Teams page. Here, the monthly tally represents the cumulative impact of all of the actions everyone in your team has taken, across all projects, for the last 30 days. Actions that you and your group-mates perform on a regular basis and/or ones that have ongoing impacts (like weather-stripping windows) are included in every month’s tally. One-time actions (like a staycation) count toward your group’s monthly impact for just 30 days, but will always be part of its cumulative impact.
We use the honor system. Actions that are clearly habitual shouldn’t be marked as complete unless you do them regularly. For example, if you once picked up a candy wrapper, that doesn’t count as picking up litter when you see it.
Similarly, if you used to do an action all the time, but don’t anymore (say you moved to a new house and no longer have a dual-flush toilet), please undo that action.
There may also be times when you can mark an action as complete even though it doesn’t apply to you. If, for example, you don’t belong to a gym or don’t exercise, you can get points for unplugging your exercise routine. On the other hand, if you’re a renter with no control over turning down your water heater, you shouldn’t mark this action as complete until you convince your landlord to turn it down!
If an action is truly not relevant (our favorite example: all natural shampoo for someone with no hair), just select “ignore”.
We’re constantly fine-tuning our calculations as new data becomes available and occasionally this changes an action’s score.