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Live from the Green:Net Conference: What's your Carbon ID?

Virtue is the new conspicuous consumption. We may not be able to flaunt some new fancy gadget or outfit, but we can show off how good a steward of the earth we're being. If Avoiding Mass Extinction Engine (AMEE) CEO Gavin Starks is right, our energy identities may one day be as ubiquitous as information about our bank account balances. Starks spoke today at Green:Net in San Francisco about how we need to learn to embrace our carbon IDs, or the digital description of our energy consumption. We're all familiar with the term "carbon footprint", or the amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by individual, organization, or product, but AMEE's carbon ID takes into account energy use as well.

Everything and everybody has their own unique carbon ID, from individual citizens and pieces of trash to buildings and corporations. Although energy-intensive corporations may be hesitant to release information about their energy identities, Stark believes that the only way we can move away from doomsday climate scenarios is to release such information for collaborative purposes. Indeed, 30 years of studies about home energy show that simply seeing the impact of your behavior in real time cuts consumption by 5% to 15%.

Starks sees transparency as essential to achieving his goal. The company's algorithmic Web service anonymously aggregates emissions information and consumption data from individuals, businesses, products, and so forth, in more than 150 countries and regions. It then files the IDs into a trackable online system. So far, AMEE's platform has been embraced by such companies as Morgan Stanley, Google, and even the band Radiohead.

According to Stark, our energy identities cannot be completely private. Just as you might go on a diet to feel more comfortable about your weight, you should go on a carbon diet to feel more comfortable talking about your carbon ID. If we ignore Stark's call for information, we risk finding ourselves in an overheated, energy-poor world.

Related: Attack of the Green-Tech Geeks