Early last year, Massachusetts Sierra Club activist Jason Karas, above, had an idea: what if online social networking could be melded with online games to allow consumers to actively do something about global warming and have fun in the process?
Karas began brainstorming with fellow Boston-area Club members Stan Ward, Bill Filler, and Steve Barrett, below. "We knew that we were comfortable in our habits of consumption," Karas says, "and we needed to identify some realistic steps to rein in our behavior. But it would be hard to get excited about our plan without some sort of feedback loop that showed real progress."
Flash forward to November 2007 and the launch of Carbonrally.com, a web community where members propose ideas for reducing their carbon footprint, and the community chooses the best ones to pursue—for example, drinking tap instead of bottled water or replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. Joining up is free, and members can form teams to compete locally or battle with other towns for the most carbon reduction points. The total community impact of the actions is tracked in real-time on the website, and a leaderboard board keeps tabs on who has reduced their CO2 emissions the most.
"By tracking the collective impacts of these small actions, we're able to show the power of many people getting the job done together," Karas says. "Bit by bit, the community learns the connections between climate and lifestyle and racks up literally tons of carbon benefits along the way."
Karas says Carbonrally was inspired by his father, Dr. Jonathan Karas (1922-1999). "He rallied many around the wonder of science, our planet, and the importance of fun in every pursuit."