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The Calorie Currency by S. Hesse + S. Pobst

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Shawn Hesse

Nov 11, 2013


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This proposal was submitted or the 2012/2013 round of contests. A previous comment on this proposal from edcdave is: The emphasis on energy measurement for manufacturing and extraction is excellent. Too often the expense of "clean" technologies is hidden from the consumer. From rare earth components in batteries to lightweight alloys, there are costs that are not readily apparent in the sale price of an item. There are other, perhaps substantial, energy expenditures for some products. Do you have any plans to account for the energy required to transport and distribute products? Items shipped from foreign manufacturers would seem to require more calories to reach the intended market. End-of-product-life energy costs seem particularly prickly, since the caloric requirements for disposal or recycling are bound to change over time and would be difficult to predict. An extreme example: if hazardous residue must be launched into the Sun, then the true caloric footprint of a product would be astronomical (pun intended.)

Pia Jensen

Nov 22, 2013


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This is a great idea. Many people are now used to checking food calories, appliance energy use, organic status, etc. that I think it would be easy for people to "get" the importance of this "tool."

Abhik Tayal

Jun 18, 2014


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A tool if comprehensively developed taking into account majority of factors will go a long way in shaping people's mindset about energy usage which will eventually leads to manufacturers being conscious of their energy reporting. Abhik

Paul Wolfram

Jun 19, 2014


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Perhaps you could further elaborate on why an 'energy footprint' is supposingly better than let's say a 'carbon footprint', 'water footprint' or 'ecological footprint'. Just one example: A cup of coffee probably had a quite low energy footprint but its water footprint is very high. Depending on which of these two measures is used for pricing a cup of coffee, the final price would probably differ substantially.

Zoe Whitton

Jun 20, 2014


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I would agree with paulw - documenting footprints is, I think, a good idea, but why calories instead of carbon, ecological or water? It would also be great to hear a bit about why people will care about the energy footprint and how the energy footprint would be measured/determined. At some level, many people appear to have some instinct for efficiency, and might prefer using the product with a lesser footprint. However, I wouldn't be surprised if many people would find energy footprint unimportant, or atleast far less important than their other preferences. It would be good to hear how one might evince its importance to people. It would also be nice to have some more detail regarding how energy footprint is to be measured (given many companies don't understand their own supply chains) and which inputs are allocated to which end products. Kering's efforts to produce a per-product EPL (which includes energy use) is probably an interesting case study into the difficulty of determining energy use per product, but also into how it might be done.

Saravanan Dhalavoi Pandian

Jun 29, 2014


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Interesting concept and I believe that this would add greater transparency between the manufactures and consumers. You might focus on the following points: 1. The wide range of methods used to calculate carbon / energy footprints can cause confusion among consumers and stakeholders. It will take years to standardize carbon / energy footprint globally. 2. As Paul said above, energy footprint labels communicate just one aspect of a product’s environmental impact. May be you can recommend enhanced ecolabelling scheme, called ‘sustainable product indexing’, that recognises the broader, complex social and environmental impacts of products. 3. Instead of simple labels which usually report how much energy a product uses, you can recommend comparative labels which will show the amount of energy used by competing products that provide an equivalent service level. 4. Cost to comply with energy labeling regulations for industries might be significant (?) and there is no guarantee of the benefits the industries would reap in return. 5. If the energy labeling standards were required for all imports into a certain market, and if the costs were too high, developing country exporters might be excluded from the market altogether, which could jeopardise their livelihoods. 6. There is a high possibility of trade war if the concept is not introduced globally All the best, Saravanan.

Matthew Cashman

Jul 16, 2014


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Thanks so much for the proposal! It's a great idea. In order to raise your chances of success with the judges, I think you should try to add as much detail, especially about concrete implementation steps, as you can in these last few days.

Climate Colab

Aug 5, 2014


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This is an interesting proposal which has a great premise namely to score all products based on embodied energy and link to costs. Basically this involves internalizing the externality of CO2 and other energy related externalities. However it is also a daunting task to do this in the current environment. The idea of requiring Energy scoring is nice but how do you get governments to pass those laws? The implementation is very challenging although the effectiveness could be very large. The proposal is missing various sections for example there is nothing on the question of who are the actors are how much it would cost and what the CO2 impacts would be. Such it feels like it is in a very early stage. However I also noticed that it was submitted last year which makes me think that the proposers have been stymied with it. I think it makes more sense to begin with a voluntary project perhaps focused on a particular industry or product group and to begin by working with some companies who are interested in providing this kind of information to consumers. I like the idea of providing information about embodied energy much more so that providing information on carbon footprint or ecological footprint. Although the latter measures have been used for some time, I think that people can relate to the embodied energy unit, and to the familiar concept of calories, than to the other measures. Also, it would really bring home the impacts of such things as very large houses as well as (in the wealthy neighborhoods) the all too common practice of tearing down perfectly good residential homes in order to build new (and much bigger) ones. But the proposal is very sketchy, lacking in detail and a realistic implementation plan. My suggestion to the authors is that they should see this project not as a policy proposal but as an entrepreneurial endeavor. They might also team up with a high tech expert in order to develop easily accessible app, so that access to this information would be easy. This will require a significant effort on their part, I realize, but may produce an innovative (and fresh) way of considering the ecological impact of products.