Web site tallies green impact

Combining the fight against global warning with a Web-based community is a match made in the Bay Area.

Although EarthLab.com was born in Seattle, local residents are flocking to it in record numbers since its launch on July 7, in conjunction with the Live Earth concert.

The green-focused Web site, which is unique in its ability to calculate the environmental footprint and carbon output from each individual and compare scores across regions or zip codes, has attracted 38,000 users from the Bay Area in less than two months, said site founder Duane Dahl.

On both the lifestyle impact and carbon footprint, Bay Area residents are scoring an average of 6 percent lower than the rest of the United States, Dahl said. Additionally, 62 percent of local residents use energy-friendly compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Dahl chalks up the impressive Bay Area statistics to public transit, eco-friendly elected officials and heightened awareness of environmental issues.

A family trip to Lake Tahoe last year sparked the idea for EarthLab, said Dahl, whose background is in heading online dating sites. After a beautiful day spent outdoors, he and his wife and two boys watched Al Gore’s global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

“It was my green-light moment,” he said. “I ended up thinking about my boys and the beauty of the world we live in and what will be left for them and their kids. It wasn’t about saving the bullfrogs and the birds. It was about my family.”

First, he had to inform himself about environmental issues.

“I’m the first one to admit I was clueless as to our impact on the environment,” he said. “When I tried to research it online, I’d inevitably have to download a 60- to 90-page international report that I wouldn’t understand. What we’re trying to do with EarthLab is provide some simple takeaway.”

The site focuses on simple things consumers can do to reduce their environmental footprint — only plugging in their cell phone for as long as it takes to charge the battery, or washing laundry in cold water. It also provides a long-term plan with which people can chart their progress.

“Many consumers are like me a year ago — when I’d think about environmental issues, I’d think about light bulbs and buying a hybrid,” he said. “For most people, it’s not realistic to go out and buy a $30,000 car, but there are hundreds of small things you can do.”

What’s your score?

EarthLab gives users two scores: Earth Conservation Plan, or ECP scores, which measures one’s overall footprint on the environment; and carbon output scores. For both, lower is better.

Average ECP scores

San Francisco 296

California 311

United States 347

World 331

Average carbon scores

San Francisco 11.7

California 12.3

United States 14.8

World 13.6

tbarak@examiner.com

Voice your opinion and vote in our poll at examiNation SF: How eco-friendly is your lifestyle?

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