These days just about everything has its own green certification — hotels, cleaning supplies, clothing, food products, toys, and on and on. But a new company is turning the tables on the green ratings game and certifying people.
It's called Pinemark and takes about 5-10 minutes. The user is asked a series of questions about energy consumption, fuel usage, water efficiency and green lifestyle. Then given a score out of 10 for each category. If you hit a high enough score, you are eligible to become a member.
Here's a list of some of the lifestyle questions:
But the real question is, do people really want to get green rated?
That's a question we had to tackle back in the day when starting EVO.com, an online green membership organization. Like an AARP for greenies, EVO offered a way to see how green you were and then provided green product recommendations based on your lifestyle.
What we discovered is that getting people to participate was a very difficult thing to do, mostly because there had to be an incentive. Even liberal, do-gooder environmentalists still want to be rewarded for their green behavior, and just being told that you are officially "green" didn't cut it.
So the key, we realized, was discounts. EVO's CEO Dan Siegel was one of the founders of the wildly successful Student Advantage, which was also a membership organization but one designed to give students discounts on frequently used products for an annual membership fee.
A fantastic idea, but applied to the green marketplace it became quite tricky because you also had to carefully define what "green products" are and at the time there were multiple rating systems, some much better than others. To date there is still no single comprehensive green products rating system though many are in the works including the Good Guide, and Walmart's sustainability index.
The other challenge was actually negotiating the discounts on behalf of members, and then extracting an initial membership fee from the individual. In the end, EVO became an aggregator and filter of green products — over 2 million "green" worldwide (the largest of its kind). But it never launched the membership program.
So hats off to Pinemark. The personal rating system is made to look simple but underlying it there is a lot of data, and I do wish the data sources were better identified and the standard against which people are being compared disclosed.
In any case, it's a great effort, though I'm doubtful that people will actually want to pay $39 to get their own certification, given the limited number of discounts offered. One hopes there will be more great green products on the way soon.