By John DeFore
As a part of their coverage of the sustainability beat, radio’s American Public Media has launched an online game called Consumer Consequences designed to help listeners put their individual use of natural resources in global perspective.
With its mix of kid-friendly touches (players start by picking cartoon-character avatars) and grown-up ones (you need to know details like your average monthly bill), the game casts a wide net; it’s probably most appropriate not for individuals but for families to play together — plug in variables about the household’s daily habits, and it purports to tell you how many Planet Earths would be required if every human alive consumed what you do.
If the specifics are a touch vague, the site’s engaging nature does encourage players to think about mundane choices (how much coffee you drink, for example) that few people see as having as much to do with environmentalism as recycling or carpooling.
Getting a firmer grip on your actual environmental impact is a lot more complicated and time-consuming, but there are ways to make even the details interesting. Gadgets like the cleverly named Kill A Watt offer to help you get behind the electric bill you see each month and figure out which of your appliances contribute the most to it.
As with Consumer Consequences, it’s easy to imagine this device as a family science experiment, with kids guessing whether the DVD player needs more power than the fridge or the bedside lamp (and whether that lamp is better than others), then finding out with their parents’ help.
In both cases, the desired result is the same: Use curiosity and play to focus our attention on serious decisions that consumers rarely even notice they’re making
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