Normative: Scan your purchase, visualize your impact by Normative Team
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The judges appreciate you addressing the comments they gave during the last round. They remained somewhat unsure of how this proposal results in less consumption rather than different consumption. They thought as well that, given the level of the project's development, the complexity may be too high. Smaller, more concrete, nearer-term goals may help. They would like to applaud you on your initiative as evidenced by the success of your networking.
This is a well-developed and interesting proposal, well thought out by authors with experience and expertise. The idea is not new, but it is developed here from a new angle. My reservations pertain the effectiveness of this approach, the underlying assumption of which is that providing the information to consumers about the ecological impacts of their purchases will significantly reduce the collective impact of these purchases. Research so far does not support that assumption. The example you give in the final calculation around the case of a pair of jeans (which would be more helpful of it was additionally presented as relative, not only absolute reductions; and relative to that person’s carbon footprint) is that the consumer buys less, not only different. But I do not see how the proposed tool will do that. I imagine that the consumer will look for a lower impact pair of jean, not forego buying the jeans altogether; there is nothing in your method that indicates that people will actually reduce the amount of stuff they acquire (which is ultimately our goal, isn’t it?). Perhaps you can make a stronger case for this type of changing behavior? My second reservation is that the biggest ecological impacts in people’s lives come from such decisions as: where to live (commuting, driving), in what type of a house to live (the size, the design, the energy efficiency), and how to spend leisure time (speed boats, snowmobiles, etc, extensive travels). Will your tool inform people about these impacts before they make these long term decisions? Do you believe that it will change their behaviors?
This is an interesting idea. It takes the work that has already been done in this field and adds a few dimensions, particularly the gamification and the charity option. The team has obviously done a lot of great work to secure partners, figure out funding, and work on the demanding technical requirements for providing ethical and environmental impacts for products. In many ways this is a very appealing approach, however I have significant reservations, both about the general approach and some of the specifics about this project. I suggest the team looks at the experience of "The Good Guide" which attempted to do this without much success. Citations to O'Rourke's work on The Good Guide would have been useful. The usefulness of the game feature is not supported and that would also be worth doing. Finally, I worry about rebound effects with the charity option (see cheatneutral.com for a humorous critique of the paradigm of carbon offsetting.) There are other operational issues, for example, what determines the relative weights of different impacts in the scoring, that is vital. I also have reservations about the individual product approach. You might want to look at the debate in the Dara O'Rourke Boston Review volume. There I argue for a brand-based, rather than a product-based, approach. Finally, there is the question of how a highly individualized approach such as this squares with the need for a change in the larger culture and social behaviors. A good deal of research on sustainable consumption suggests that the social dimensions are where we should be putting our efforts. This seems like a step away from that, with the exception of the information on others, which is a wonderful feature. Finally, I think a simpler approach, just focusing on carbon might be better. Consumers are already feeling overwhelmed.
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