What is the best existing non-interactive comparison of the ecological impacts of different personal lifestyle choices? The obvious domains might be housing, transport, food, personal consumption and waste. Perhaps it could be by dollar spent, or dollar saved, or hour spent, or year of commitment. A good carbon-impact comparison would be a second-best alternative.
The public debate on these issues is full of sweeping generalizations supported by absolute figures (usually tons, sometimes hectares), which are meaningless to most people. What is most needed is relative figures, if possible with a graphical component.
Clearly there is a huge knowledge gap on this subject, and as a result at least some people are focusing their efforts in the wrong areas. The net outcome may not be positive if consumers make trivial changes, sometimes involving real effort, and then consider themselves absolved of further responsibility for the global ecological crisis.
The obvious example of a "micro" choice is low-energy lightbulbs, but there are plenty of others:
- recycling household plastic
- passing up meat more often
- replacing a car or electrical appliance with a more efficient version
- taking shorter showers or turning down heating or aircon
- postponing the replacement of a mobile phone
Such deeds can certainly add up to something significant. But how significant? Together, can they ever become as significant as a single "macro" choice? Such as:
- becoming vegetarian
- moving to an urban apartment
- not flying
- cycling to work
How many avoided hamburgers does it take a suburbanite to cancel out the SUV? Roughly. :)
"Ecological footprint" – the amount of land required to support an individual lifestyle – is supposed to measure these things. Calculators include:
In general these are either unusably ugly or extremely simplistic, and more importantly (1) they require fastidious form-filling and (2, as pointed out in a similar question here) they do not detail the figures behind their algorithms.