I continue to be intrigued by some very interesting innovations that companies are presenting to consumers in an effort to further promote sustainability education and transition. Once such tool that has captured my attention is Energyville, an online game created by The Economist Group (the publishers of The Economist) and Chevron to educate the public about energy options.
Energyville invites participants to create a fictitious simulated town with varying levels of decisions regarding energy choices: biomass, coal, hydro, natural gas, nuclear, petroleum, solar and wind. With each passing level of the game you move forward 15 years and witness the results of your energy purchasing decisions. In the end, your decisions are weighed against three criteria of impact: economic, environmental, and security. As I played with it more and did my own research, I found that this tool is designed to show the viewer that in the end oil and nuclear are not so bad in terms of cost and environmental impact, and wind and solar may not be as efficient as we would hope. Energyville is a good idea, but with an agenda from a large Energy company. I completely support the growth of corporations within sustainable practices, but we have a responsibility to help solve social and environmental issues as a result of our work, and not just those issues that benefit our company’s bottom-line. This is the heart of Conscious Capitalism. There is a way to create realistic tools which both support the needs of the company and provide authentic learnings for our customers. I do encourage the creation of more tools such as Energyville when they are designed to help a wider audience learn about sustainable choices in a fun and interactive way. However, consumers themselves do have a responsibility to self-educate. I am concerned that if they don’t, they may accept some of the learnings from games such as this as fact or as the only option. I would love to see the development of an improved Energyville addressing the needs of a “real” USA, where players can choose energy alternatives based on the geographic capabilities. For instance, wind and solar would prevail in the mid-west and west, while pockets of geo-thermal could be tapped into nationwide. Such a tool could provide Americans with a real-life look into how companies are currently powered and what choices realistically can be made to improve upon those options. In addition, realistic dollars could be applied to each round of the game based on government stimulus or corporate and private investment. Who wants to help me build this tool and get it into the hands of school students nationwide? After all, these are the people who will be making these decisions for our nation over the next 50 plus years. Our environmental future depends on them and it’s our job to help them make informed choices.