Aside from being a welcome distraction for office drones across the country, Facebook applications can do some good. These eight applications encourage greener habits among Facebook users. As much as I love the way the new Facebook hides all the profile-cluttering applications (I roll my eyes every time I have to scroll through someone's "Which Sex and the City/Harry Potter/Disney Character Are You?"), it's almost too bad that some of these will be kept under wraps with the new design.
In the spirit of Facebook, I'll be rating the sites on a scale of 1 to 10 in pokes.
• The granddaddy of green Facebook apps, Lil' Green Patch puts a patch of grass on your profile that you can fill with cute* stuff. The more people who use the application, the more money sponsors donate to the Nature Conservancy's Adopt an Acre program. According to the application's description, it has saved 29,259,567 square feet of rainforest, or a little more than 1 square mile.
*cute in the same way 6-year-old girls think Bratz Dolls are cute.
Score: 7 pokes, for its large following—it might have gotten more if not for the retina-searing adorableness of the vegetable people in the patch.
• I Am Green celebrates our tiny green choices by displaying a user's personal green actions on his or her profile. By adding your choices, such as "I reuse plastic bags" or "I do not use any chemicals in my yard," you can encourage other people to take the same actions. Some actions, though, should go without saying; who needs to declare that they don't own any personal aircraft?
Score: 5 pokes. Tiny choices encourage others.
• Do the Green Thing, based on the site of the same name, gives you a simple action, like asking for tap water at restaurants, that you can do to make yourself greener. When you click off which actions you've done, the site calculates the carbon collectively saved by everyone using the site. Green Thing has a good sense of humor; when selecting what green actions you've done, it asks that you certify, "I absolutely promise that I have done this particular Green Thing or may my soul frazzle to a crisp in a globally super-warmed hell of my own making." It also is illustrated with quirky monster pictures, which are a welcome reprise from the saccharine Lil' Green Patch.
Score: 10 pokes—and not just because of the cool graphics
• Green My Vino, an application run by the Village Green, purchases sustainable energy for its users, which is used as an incentive for California wineries to purchase their own green power. All you have to do is send green power minutes to your friends, and Village Green Energy will purchase power from solar and wind farms. Based on the number of users and their level of activity, green wineries Windsor, Girard, and Iron Horse will purchase clean energy as well. The more you fool around on Facebook, the sweeter each guilt-free sip of your Merlot will taste.
Score: 4 pokes, since the potential for annoying your friends with this one is high
• Big Green Challenge pits you against your friends in reducing your carbon footprint for points. You can challenge your friends to take simple actions like switching off lights as you leave the room and turning off appliances. It tells you the amount of CO2 you've saved and its equivalent in trees planted, which seems a little misleading, as the app is not planting any trees. And again with the Bratz Doll-esque avatars.
Score: 6 pokes for encouraging competitiveness
• My Green Profile purchases offsets for the amount of energy used surfing Facebook for every 10,000 people who add the application. It's pretty vague, though; no word on where the offsets are coming from, or what initiatives they fund.
Score: 2 pokes until the app backs up its claims
• That's unlike Carbon Neutral Profile, which is very transparent about the offsets it purchases. Sponsored by MoveNeutral.com, the organization has offset 167,228.989 pounds of carbon. Click the badge on your profile each week to offset more.
Score: 7 pokes for being forthright and actually making a difference
• Green My Ride focuses on what green goods you consume to determine whether you are a gas guzzler or a hybrid-driver and places the appropriate vehicle on your profile. You can pick from cleaning products, home accessories, and cosmetics, among other categories to add to your profile, to proudly tell the world you have a solar panel and feed your child organic baby food, or would like to. It focuses more on what you can buy, rather than what you don't buy, which is a better way to be greener, right? Also, if your product is Earth friendly but not aggressively marketed as green, you may not see it on there. For example, I clicked the "transportation" category to get points for adding a plain old bicycle and found that electric bicycles, hybrid cars, and scooters were my only options.
Score: 3 pokes for encouraging consumption over money-saving simple living
Follow Maura Judkis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/freshgreens