A personal CO2 calculator called Commute Greener! hit the app store day. Volvo Group, which developed the online site and smartphone app (downloadable for $3.99) had initially tested a prototype internally and showed that employees reduced their CO2 emissions from commuting by 30% on average. Commute Greener! entices with a one-two punch of personal-data diving and competition. After calculating your baseline commute, you can set weekly reduction targets, track your cumulative damage, and compare your data with other users.
It was that sharing—and the competition it naturally sparked—that really drives change, Volvo's business innovation manager Kerstin Hanson told us in September. "People feel a sense of accomplishment in reducing their CO2 emissions," she says. "It lets us use the carrot instead of the whip to help people change their behavior."
This morning I took Commute Greener! for a little test-drive but quickly realized that, well, my daily commute is pretty green. (Don't get me wrong: other apps will merrily tell me exactly how much I'm harming the planet with each minute I spend in the shower, but Volvo's app is centered on transportation.) Most weeks my commute is unwavering: five 3-mile round-trip subway rides as I schlep to and from work. On the weekends, I walk. Period. Commute Greener! tallies my weekly total at 1.68 kg of CO2 emissions.
But Commute Greener! isn't designed for urban dwellers with car phobias. When I mention the app to my mom, who haphazardly carpools with my dad or sister and regularly drives 3 hours a day, she's intrigued enough to have me crunch a slew of hypothetical combinations into the app.
And I will have one giant carbon binge this week: Thanksgiving. I punch in my two hypothetical trips to the airport. Even though a cab ride is fewer miles than the subway + bus option of public transportation (11.2 miles compared with 16.6 miles), Commute Greener! calculates the public option at just 957g of CO2 and the private cab at 3.2 kg. Yikes. Way to make the eco-impact of my possible splurge totally concrete, Volvo. And guess I'll see you on the bus.