Friday, April 15, 2011

Finally! A green quiz for the rest of us

At last! The folks at Practically Green have come up with a green quiz and set of tips that make sense!

I've taken several "how green are you?" quizzes (they're all over the web these days), and most of them I find useless. The quizzes tend to fall into three types:

1) The snarky quiz. These quizzes include multiple choice questions with 3 choices, one of which is an absurdly anti-green action, one of which is an extreme green action, and one of which is meant to represent the sensible middle. You know you're supposed to pick the sensible choice, even if none of the above apply to you. For instance, they might ask you about your toilet habits, and the choices are: a) I flush 6 times each time I use it, whether I need to or not; b) I compost all my body waste in a pit outdoors; or c) I have a dual-flush toilet.

2) The "how many earths are you destroying?" quiz (otherwise known as a carbon footprint calculator). These quizzes depress me, without teaching me anything new. I already know that because I'm American, because I drive a car and because I eat meat, that my lifestyle is not sustainable and that if everyone on earth lived like me, we'd deplete the entire planet in about 3 years.

3) The "this only applies to the wealthy and/or homeowners" quiz. These quizzes only ask questions about actions you have to have a lot of money or own a home to do, such as installing insulation or Energy Star appliances, buying hybrid vehicles, buying only clothing made from organic fabrics, and the like. No green actions that apply to non-homeowners, or that cost little or no money, appear on the quiz.

The quizzes all come with recommendations, but the recommendations are often equally useless, to me at least. The first type only offers one possible option per area (e.g., buy a dual flush toilet); the second would require radical changes in our society to have an impact; and the third, I'd have to have a lot more money than I have now to do.

A green quiz for the rest of us: Practically Green

This quiz was awesome! It only takes five minutes, but it asks multiple questions in four different areas: health, water, energy and stuff (possessions). They actually ask whether you own or rent a home, they include questions about things that you need to be a homeowner to do (such as install dual-paned windows), but also about actions that anyone could do (such as wash clothes in cold water). And you can answer "not sure" or skip the question if it doesn't apply.

At the end of the quiz, they bounce back recommendations for you in each of the areas. If you click on the recommendation, you can read why it's green, how to do it, and some resources that will help you to implement it, which is fantastic. Then you can check whether you're not yet committed to the action, whether you're already doing it, whether you plan to do it, or whether it doesn't apply to you.

Although they give you about a dozen recommendations for each area, as you check them off, new ones appear (their web site says their database includes more than 400 actions). I love that, too, because sometimes I feel tapped out, unsure how to keep making improvements to be more green. Because of the recommendations, I have added the following items to my action plan:

1. Clean/mitigate any household mold
2. Shop at a farmer's market
3. Sign up for CSA
4. Inflate your tires
5. Switch to all-natural chewing gum
6. Switch to all-natural hand sanitizer

So, kudos to Practically Green!

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