From GHG Footprint to SocialWay Rootprint?

By now, you’ve probably heard of Freecycle, the group that allows you to follow the second precept of the Energy/Environmental Three Rs by ‘reusing it’ by passing ‘it’ along to others.  This can range from leaves for mulch to that baby grand piano that just can’t fit in your new home.   Freecycle enables you to pass along (or get) goods for free and be done with the problem. But, what about those who want to know

the impact of their actions? Who want to calculate how much they are helping to save the planet through borrowing and sharing and reusing? 

SocialWay seems  to have taken this challenge on.  They’ve developed the SocialWay RootprintTM.

From SocialWay:

“Did you know: Sharing one book will save carbon emissions that will take a ten-year old tree a whole year to absorb?”

Their point: want to reduce your GHG emissions, learn how to share with friends, family, neighbors, a larger community.  This strikes at the heart of America’s white picket fence image, perhaps, but the question to ask: Does every home need a lawn mover (forget the question of push, electric, or gas) or could several neighbors share one?  How about garden tools? DVD collections? Books?

SocialWay helps by utilizing the stuff that everyone already owns more efficiently – lend what you don’t need right now and borrow what you don’t really need to buy.

What are some of those things sensible to share. First, the key test:  “If it has been more than 1 month then it is a candidate for sharing.” Okay, well, the lawn mower doesn’t pass that test, except in a non-Global Warming impacted January (in DC area, was cutting the grass this January …), but it is sensible for potential sharing among near neighbors.

What does SocialWay suggest?

An average book is read less than once in its lifetime and an average power drill is used less than 20 minutes in its lifetime. These are only a few examples of things that we have found easy to share:

  • Books, Movies, Games, Music
  • Toys and other stuff that kids are bored with or have outgrown – bikes, scooters, helmets, strollers, high chairs, car seats, Halloween costumes and all the innumerable stuff that fills a house that has kids
  • Outdoor stuff – summer camping things and winter snow things
  • Tools – power drill, jigsaw, circular saw, router and all the other things sitting in the garage of Mr. Tool Guy
  • Garden equipment

Note, for me, so many of these things seem odd to have as ‘share’ as opposed to give away (or, even, sell). Why worry about tracking and “borrowing” all those things that “kids … have outgrown”?

But, while this concept hits its head against American idyllic images of that white picket fence surrounding one’s castle, the really interesting thing is creating a measure of merit (MOM)/measure of effectiveness (MOE) as to the sharing’s impact. 

There are a certain share of the public that loves counting, loves measuring — whether it is their waistline, reading the stock charts, or electricity usage.  The SocialWay RootprintTM provides a tool for doing this.

 SocialWay RootprintTM is a measure of emissions saved through your activities on SocialWay. For ease of understanding, this number is also translated into the number of trees that would absorb the emissions that you saved. You also attain SocialWay levels based on the number of SocialWay trees you have “grown”.

You can follow the path from “acorn” (you joined) to “urban acre” or 56 mature oak tree equivalents. (No, SocialWay does not encourage you to harvest these trees for oak plants …)

SocialWay seeks to calculate a total impact (using “the EIO-LCA (Environmental Input Output – Life Cycle Assessment) model for the environmental impacts of producing goods and services as published and made available by“) of an item.  For each category, they calculate the CO2 kilograms per “unit” (such as books (8.32 kgs co2 per unit), shoes (24.03), vacuum cleaners (101.42),  etec …)

This concept is interesting. Creating a path that fosters sharing seems like a sensible part of developing post-Peak Oil strategies and for saving energy sensibly.  On the other hand,

  • Does the book sharing benefit caculate in the driving the SUV to share it? Why not donate that book to the library or use the libary in the first place?
  • And, well, wow … the complexity …  What is the CO2 footprint of all the computer server time required for entering in and searching all the database material to be part of the network?

To be honest, while I’d love to see the neighborhood shed for garden tools & such (e.g., I’m ready for doing something like this), the ‘data’ burden has scared me away from becoming a participant.

But, I’d love to hear participants’ experiences … anyone out there?


2 responses to “From GHG Footprint to SocialWay Rootprint?

  1. I speak as a participant and a founder of SocialWay. SocialWay encourages sharing – this includes lending/borrowing AND giving away.

    So if your kids has outgrown his clothes, you should give them away. But maybe you want that highchair back a year later for your second kid. Same with a book. If you are done and don’t want it on your bookshelf, give it away. Or get it from a library in the first place. But if you do buy a book and do want it on your bookshelf, make it work by lending it out.

    The second question that you ask is an important one – what is the energy cost of sharing? This is where SocialWay recommends sharing within communities where you meet people frequently. You see your co-workers five days a week. No need for any extra driving or mailing. Same is the case with your neighbors, with friends you meet on the weekend or for students at school. Special trips for sharing should be rare. Share what makes sense in each community. You don’t want to be exchanging lawn mowers at work :).

    Re computer servers for SocialWay: we do not have a zero carbon footprint. Unfortunately, nothing does in the current infrastructure without working really hard at it and then offsetting the rest. Not your local recycling service, or freecycle, or your hybrid car or CFLs. Saving way more energy than spending is the goal and sharing has an enormous potential to do that.

    60% of the carbon emissions we are responsible for come indirectly from what we buy/consume. It is time that we start focusing seriously on this 60% and addressing it at the source where the demand originates. SocialWay is here to help and it needs help from other concerned folks to be part of the movement and shape it to what they want to see.

  2. Nita,

    Thank you very much for your comments. As per my end-line, I really wanted to hear from participants’ experiences.

    You make good points about interim use between kids/such. And, to be honest, already have done this informally with friends / such. Strollers and bassinets and etc lent out for a year or two … clothing passed between cousins … and now that our household has stopped growing, those multiple use items are heading toward local charities.

    And, other things are going toward freecycle.

    Thus, guess my household practices the informal variant of SocialWay …

    And, well, I really would like to start that lawn mower sharing at work …

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