How Green Are You? Take This Test

Measuring your commitment to sustainability

One of the articles in Global Climate Change (IC#22)
Originally published in Summer 1989 on page 8
Copyright (c)1989, 1997 by Context Institute

Here’s a way to check how committed you are to sustainability. This test is adapted from one that appeared in Ecoforum, published by the Environmental Liaison Centre (P.O. Box 72461, Nairobi, Kenya, $30 per year). You’ll probably score better after reading this issue of IN CONTEXT.


1. How Solar Are You? Give yourself 1 point for each renewable energy technology you use in your home, plus a bonus point for each one that replaced a non-renewable. Subtract 1 if you’ve switched back to a non-renewable, for any reason.

2. How Efficient Are You? Take 1 point each for owning energy efficient appliances, driving a fuel efficient car (35 mpg or higher), insulating your home, turning off lights not in use, using less heat and air conditioning, and dressing with the weather. 1 bonus point for doing all of the above.

3. Are You In Love With An Automobile? No car or motorcycle? Plus 5 points. More than one in your family? Minus 3 for each additional vehicle, and a whopping -10 if there are more vehicles than people. Add 1 point for car pooling regularly, 3 points for using public transport, and 5 for leaving your vehicle in favor of a bike.

4. Do You Eat Energy? 1 point for knowing that meat is an inefficient way to convert grain to human food energy, and another for eating less as result. Minus 2 if you know, but still eat it twice a day. Plus 5 points for being vegetarian! But minus 2 for eating convenience foods regularly, and minus 5 if you’ve had a "frozen dinner" in the past year, vegetarian or not.

Natural Resources

5. Have You Hugged a Tree Today? If you use wood products regularly, but don’t know where they come from or how they were cut, that’s minus 1 point. If you know it’s "non-sustainable" wood and you use it anyway, minus 2. Do you have furniture or artwork made from rare tropical woods? If you bought them yourself, that’s -1 for each item.

6. Are You A Water Miser? Add 1 point for each idea you’ve come up with to save water around the house, and another for each idea you actually put in practice. But subtract 2 if you water your lawn.

7. Are You Wearing The Last Rhino? If you own any object made from an extinct or endangered animal, deduct 2 points from your score if it was a gift – and 5 if you bought it yourself.


8. Are You A Greenhouse-Builder? If you burn oil, wood, or coal for heat or cooking, but you feel guilty because you contribute to global warming, give yourself a point. Give yourself 2 points if you are directly involved in planting trees to absorb the CO2 you generate.

9. Do You Know What A CFC Is? If you don’t, deduct 1 point. If you still use aerosols, deduct another. Add 1 point if you never use Styrofoam. If you thought ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect were the same thing, you get a big -5. But take 1 bonus point if you can clearly explain the difference to confused friends.

Ecology & Economics

10. Do You Practice Equity? If you deliberately look for products from companies that provide maximum benefits to workers and treat women equally, give yourself 2 points. Take 3 if you buy them even though they’re more expensive. Take 1 point for donating to environmental organizations, and take 2 more if your donations total more than 1% of your income. If you don’t accept surplus income out of principle, you get 3 points.

11. Do You Invest Responsibly? If you have investments, take 1 point for each investment in a company that publicly supports sustainable resource use. Take away 3 points for each company that blatantly destroys the environment. If it has never occurred to you to ask this question, give yourself a -5.

12. Are You Addicted To Globe-Trotting? If you make more than 3 air flights in a year, deduct 3 points. But if you regret doing so because the airplane represents much of what is wrong with industrial society, take only -1. If you used to feel that guilt, but no longer do because you’ve become a "realist," take an additional -2.

13. Is Your Body Your Temple? You are unlikely to treat the environment any better than you treat yourself. So if you drink soda pop on a regular basis, take a -1. If you are a coffee or soda "addict," take another -1. Take a -3 if you are a heavy smoker or drinker. Eating at fast-food joints more than once a month earns a -1 – but if you never trash your stomach that way, take a big 3 point bonus. And do you take drugs the way agribusiness sprays chemicals? Prescription or otherwise, if you don’t truly need them, deduct 3 points.

14. How Do You Kill? Minus 1 for each pesticide you have around the house (unless your pests create genuine health risks and you have no non-chemical option). Another -1 for each time in the past year you disposed of such a product without knowing if you were discarding it properly. If you did know, but tossed it in the old garbage can anyway, take a -5.

15. Are You Consistent? Do you ooh and ah over your friends’ high-ticket consumer items? If yes, subtract 1 point. But if you talk to them about environmental values, add 1 point to your score.

16. Do You Recycle? If you sometimes refuse to buy non-recyclable products, take 1 point. If you always choose to do without rather than buy non-recyclables, take 2. And if you actually do recycle your recyclables, add 1 point more.

17. What’s Downstream? Do you know what happens to the stuff you flush down the toilet? Give yourself a -2 if you don’t. And if you know your sewage isn’t being adequately treated, but you’re not doing a thing about it, take off 2 more points.

18. Are You Green At Work? If your job directly contributes to environmental sustainability, give yourself 5 points. If it directly leads to environmental degradation, take away 5. And if you recycle office paper, photocopy on both sides, re-use old manilla folders, etc., that’s an additional +2.

19. Are You Natural? Do you garden? Do you compost your household organic wastes? Have you been to a rural area, visited a state or national park, walked on a beach, or slept out under the stars at least once in the past year? One point for each affirmative answer.

20. And What About This Test? Did you keep your score on a piece of scrap paper? If you did, add 1 point – but if you used a clean sheet, subtract 2.

So How Green Are You?

0-10 Points. If you scored less than 10 points, you probably don’t even know what "green" means. Join "Polluters Anonymous."

11-18 Points. You are a pale shade of green – not much different than the rest of us. Take this test again in a year; if your score has improved, you might find that your quality of life has improved, too.

19-30 Points. Congratulations! You are a committed environmentalist, and the world needs more people like you. Let your greenness rub off on those around you!

Over 30 Points. You are an environmental saint, so green that you’re probably more vegetable than animal. Write us (on scrap paper) and tell us about yourself!

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