Chris Jones, a researcher at Berkeley Institute of the Environment, together
with Daniel Kammen and Arpad Horvath, is developing an online carbon-tracking
calculator called LEAPS (Lifecycle Environmental Assessment of Products and
Services). Consumers input information about the cars they drive, the food they
eat, the city they live in, and the goods and services they use. Then they're
given a summary of all the greenhouse gases they produce—their household's
carbon footprint—juxtaposed with the global and U.S. averages, along with
options to offset their emissions.
"We have local data for the top 28 U.S. cities," says Jones. San Francisco,
for example, could adopt the calculator, provide local resources for reducing
your footprint, and allow you to buy local off-sets—such as contributing to the
purchase of solar panels for local schools.
The next version of the calculator, which will launch January 31, will list
the carbon footprints of 1,100 goods, services, and food—you will even be able
to compare a beer in an aluminum can to a beer in a glass bottle. Once you've
made your choices, the inventors envision store kiosks where you can swipe an
item's UPC bar code to get the LEAPS data—and purchase offsets from the
retailer. "Now we can have climate-neutral shopping," Jones says. He imagines
the calculator automatically updating your carbon profile on Facebook or a
similar site so you can compete with friends to lower your footprint.