October 20, 2008

Big Brother of Recycling?

I work out more when I can see how many calories I am burning. When I see the cash flowing out of my wallet, I shop less. And research shows that if you see that amount of energy you use in real time, you cut comsumption by 5% to 15%. Green-Tech Geeks like, Ron Gonen, founder of RecycleBank, are making aplications that measure exactly what we are consuming. But, as Fast Company asks in it’s November issue, is this an invasion of privacy?

RecyleBank, is a program that allows you to get  “credit”  for what you recycle. This information is collected by a computer chip that allows your bin to be weighed as it is collected. The information is then relayed wirelessly to RecycleBank. Participants can then exchange their credits for coupons for various partners such as Coca Cola, PetCo, and CVS pharmacy.

Agilewaves, another green-tech company, has developed the Resource Monitor that can automatically calculate your carbon footprint by  tracking real-time usage of electric, gas, and water. This is great, I say, and would like one installed in my home, but the controversy is that Angilewaves’ ideal customers are municipalities and government agencies. And, as Gonen says about his customers, “We know where you live… we know the week you’ve been home; we know how much you like to buy because we know how much you are recycling.” Where is the line between surveillance and just sensing when the government is involved? I just hope that this powerful tool for changing people’s behavior is not abused. The earth can not wait.

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