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Rate Your Eco-IQ : Are you an ecological hero or a dinosaur? A new home computer software program allows you to evaluate environmental habits.


Marilyn Miller, assistant city planner and recycling coordinator for the city of Ojai, thinks she has found a clever way to get people in her town to rate their own environmental behavior.

It involves an inexpensive software program for the home computer, with the trade name EnviroAccount: Personal Environmental Accounting Software. Rather like maintaining your shopping list on your handy laptop, this program covers six categories. But instead of being an inventory of the goods and services you are about to go out and buy, EnviroAccount asks more than a hundred questions about expenditures you've already made.

Examples: What do you recycle? How often do you share rides or tune up your car? What are you paying for utilities? How often do you eat locally grown produce? (That gets high marks.) When used in your home the program provides an experience similar to maintaining a household budget or keeping tabs on your own credit rating.

"As a tool for getting people interested in measuring how much they consume, I love this thing," says Miller.

Obviously, that's the point: To get us to take a look at our consuming habits, and then to change them so they are more environmentally friendly.

Developed last year and marketed via mail order by Davis, Calif., ecologist Don Lotter, the program is already in use in quite a range of locations. Sure, you'd expect to see it in use in environmentally hip places like Fort Collins, Colo., or even environmentally challenged places like Arctic College in the Northwest Territory of Canada. But Lotter also reports sales to the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in Washington state, and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, the organization to which individual congregations belong. But, getting back to Ojai, what's Miller planning in the way of eco-computing there?

"The first thing I thought of was that this is applicable to working with schools to implement recycling. Then the kids will do it in their homes," she said. In addition to talking directly with teachers, Miller is planning to set up booths at local fairs to demonstrate the program on a computer--letting people answer a set of eco-questions and then giving them an electronically generated report card.

Lotter, in devising the program, had the imagination to give the various high or low environmental scores names like "Eco-Hero"--for the top, or "Eco-Tyrannosaurus Rex" for those of us who have been heavy-footed around the neighborhood.

A little humor, like the proverbial spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down, is welcome in such matters. As noted in the staid language of the Philadelphia Inquirer, "With EnviroAccount you analyze, in excruciating detail, your lifestyle and the demands it makes on everything from Brazilian rain forests to your local landfill."

That, in case you were wondering, is sort of what the folks in North Carolina were interested in. According to George Reed, a spokesman for the Baptist State Convention, pastors interested in the denomination's ongoing efforts to be "earth stewards" are studying the program with an eye to recommending it to parishioners.

The software contains the sort of general info that makes it suitable for Baptists, convicts and everyone in between. For those of us out and about in Southern California, some more specific tips might be useful.

By coincidence, an organization in Malibu this month published a "Green Pages" type directory that I recommend as a supplement to the EnviroAccount program.

It's official title is Greater Los Angeles Green Pages, and it describes itself as a "comprehensive environmental resource guide for the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura." It seems that it pretty much makes good on its claim. Rather than being a diffuse compendium of value to no one in any specific place, it provides folks in our county with a source of nearby eco-shopping and services that Lotter's computer analysis might spur one to embrace.


* "EnviroAccount" Personal Environmental Accounting software, $29.95. Call (800) 688-9006. Thirty-day money-back guarantee.

* Ventura County residents will find valuable environmental consumerism advice in the Greater Los Angeles Green Pages, which includes sources in our county; $14.95, 375 pages, available at local bookstores or by calling Malibu, (310) 456-2163.

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