Google's Teaching Sustainability

While reading the latest issue of Planning Magazine I came across an etcetera piece on Google’s new sustainability resources. I find it refreshing that major corporations are taking an interest in issues that have global affects, especially in a time when our national leaders are attempting to discount scientific research and roll back regulations that aim to prevent further decline. I do wish that they would spend their resources to promote this information half as much as they do on their other products. I would never have stumbled upon the website without hearing about it through my professional organization and this is one that the average citizen should know about.

Upon browsing the website I found a particularly interesting resource that helps the average resident contribute to advancing widely accepted sustainability goals. As the homepage of the Your Plan, Your Planet states “our greatest impact on the planet comes from how we use and produce food, water and energy. By making a few small changes at home, we can make a big difference.” A widget exists for each of the three categories that you can select to learn more.

Your Plan, Your Planet Homepage from Google

Your Plan, Your Planet Homepage from Google

With my background as a Master Water Steward I started with water. The first step asks for information to gauge your estimated water use when showering. I apparently use 5,475 gallons of water a year, a random number until you look at the helpful tip that equates it to 19 hot tubs full of water. Continuing on I learned that I should stop hand washing dishes because my dishwasher uses 1/2 as much water. Although I’m not sure how accurate that is or what it assumes. If I hand wash, I tend to rinse, shut the water off to scrub everything, then rinse again. Does that mean I use less water by not letting the water run during the entire process? Would it be less than the dishwasher?

Average water consumption if you take a daily 6 minute shower without a smart showerhead

Average water consumption if you take a daily 6 minute shower without a smart showerhead

The next page suggested fixing leaky faucets as they can waste 10,000 gallons of water annually. The U.S. drip calculator (apparently a real thing) found that a drip every 2 seconds equals over 1,000 gallons of water down the drain each year. A fun interactive graphic allows you to click each leaky fixture type and find out more information.

Once you complete the widget you can pledge to reduce your water consumption and start tracking progress. There’s also the option to start the next set of tracks-either food or energy. For me, the minimal amount of food I throw away equates to CO2 emissions similar to driving for 3 hours. Using incandescent bulbs in my house for 16 hours a day (with a teleworking husband the lights never go off until we go to bed) equates to 474 hours of driving in CO2 emissions. Switching to LED drops that to only 103 driving hours. The additional info link gives you the formula used to more precisely calculate the kilowatts you actually use (since we don’t keep all the lights on all the time I’m sure that number is probably quite a bit lower).

Throwing away food is not just wasteful, it has a huge impact on the environment. Food production accounts for over two thirds of the world’s water use and nearly a quarter of CO2e.
— Google
Pledge your commitment!

Pledge your commitment!

Overall, the tool is fun and interesting to use. I suggest everyone head over to the site and see how you stack up and discover what changes you can make to help make an impact on the environment. Once you make your pledges you can post them to social media to show others how easy it is to make a difference. If everyone were to make these small changes, we could make a huge impact.