Pop!Tech: Live Long and Prosper

Is there an upside to the current recession? Well, maybe, if it means we travel less, turn down the thermostat, and think deeply before flagrantly consuming more stuff. The combined effect of that parsimonious lifestyle is likely the best thing that could happen to our planet — a huge brake applied to the rampant energy consumption fueled by a bull market, says Saul Griffith, co-founder of engineering think tank Squid Labs, and founder of Makani Power, a high altitude wind company. “A recession would be great for dolphins,” he quipped.

That was the final ‘upbeat’ assessment offered by Griffith, who spoke to Pop!tech about how much energy we each are consuming.. Griffith has been mapping his own energy usage for the past few years. Because he’s a vigilant, bike-riding, newspaper recycling, locavore-eating San Franciscan, he thought he’d fare pretty well. He was horrified to discover, however, that his carbon footprint was well above average, largely due to his heavy traveling, particularly trips to Australia.  The average American uses approximately 12K per year; due to his heavy traveling, his annual consumption topped out at 17,027 watts in 2007.

Appalled, he vowed to figure out how to cut back. But how? With partners, he developed a site called Wattszon.com, which calculates a person’s energy conumption based on his or her personal lifestyle. By crowd sourcing – essentially, using users’s profiles to constantly update the database’s intelligence — Wattson.org hopes to provide one of the most sophisticated ways of calculating personal energy consumption – with the hope that that information will then spur personal change.

He’d also like to see companies label their products with how much energy is embodied in them, as well as their nutritional contents.

Griffith’s message: Personal responsibility counts.  Buy better, buy less, he suggests. And the big question for corporations is to find a way to make things that endure, as well as make money. “Making things last a long time is incredibly important. “

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