Wednesday, May 07, 2008

How do you measure your exertion.....

Today I had the good fortune to attend an event recognizing a very talented young woman who was being recognized for her work with Engineers for a Sustainable World that brings back the calling aspect of engineering to make a difference. At that event, I bumped into a friend of mine and we were talking about transportation and possible businesses, and I remarked on my latest blog post what do you call it when everyone has a hybrid? A traffic jam. He told me that studies have shown that hybrids consume as much gas as regular cars which shocked me and I asked him to explain. He said that people tend to think in terms of dollars or gas tanks, and they keep thinking oh, I'm just filling up a tank a week. Which is true, but they are driving miles. So any efficiency gained is lost on additional consumption. Plenty of studies have shown this to be true, in other contexts so I'm not surprised in hindsight that it wouldn't hold true. It's simple economic analysis.

So the question comes to my mind is how do people regulate their consumption, what is your internal gas gauge, thermostat or whatever to gauge your impact. If it's your internal perception, you are probably estimating in the wrong way your impact. Why do I think this? As an endurance athlete (I use that word generously in my case) one of the great inventions in training has been the "Heart Rate Monitor" The HRM measured how hard your heart was beating, and it provided a true measure of your exertion. Previously athletes relied on perceived exertion to measure their exercise. However perceived exertion has proven to be wildly off, even if you feel you are working out, it's entirely possible that you are not.

So often, we undertake environmental steps based on our perceived improvements. There was a debate on an internal mailing list concerning whether paper cups or washable mugs were better, with statistics on both sides. So how do we measure our impact. Is it on our bills, our wallets, our number of trips to the gas stations. Does your perceived impact match your actual impact? What's your internal impact gauge?


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