This week I’ve become slightly addicted to Eco Action Trumps, a free app that turns green actions into a game of top trumps. What better way to encourage someone to help save the planet than tapping into their need to yell “I win!”?
You choose 10 eco action cards from a list of 30, such as “take shorter showers” or “car pool”. They should be actions you either do, or seriously intend to. Your two opponents – my nemeses “Mr Bio” and “Dr Green” – take 10 each of the remaining eco action cards. Every action is allocated “eco points” according to how much you save in carbon emissions, money, and “resources” (such as energy, water, time and fossil fuels). The computer randomly calls the trump category, and the player with the highest score wins. For example, if the category is money saving, the eco action “turning down the thermostat” trumps “switching off the TV at the wall”.
There is also the option to play a round against just one opponent – easy (Mr Bio), medium (Dr Green) and hard (Prof Eco. I’m not ready for him yet.)
While the design seems to be aimed at children, the actions are clearly for adults to perform. I don’t want to see any children attempting to lag a loft – but it might be a nice change for parents to have their children nagging for a more eco-friendly lifestyle. “Mum, pleeeeease can we get a dual flush toilet? Mr Bio keeps winning!”
Online reviewers went crazy for Eco Action Trumps
There were 31 reviews on iTunes, and everyone gave it five stars. Here’s a quick sample (we’ve changed the names):
“This is a really great little app. Fun and easy to use, it is very addictive. I’ve just had to beat Mr Bio before I could get back to work! Being old enough to remember the original card game, this is a really faithful creation that respects the old skool version well. I like being able to monitor my progress in the real world as well.” – Bobby Greenface, UK
“I love this game, as it is so much more than just a game! I really like the eco action dashboard that allows me to keep track of all the actions I do and shows me the difference I am making in terms of all the energy, carbon and money I am saving. Keep the themes coming, guys. I’m up to the challenge!” – Katniss, Panem
“Eco-ace! My nine-year-old daughter loves it and she’s even begun to remember to turn the lights off when she leaves a room – job done!” – Happy parent, UK
“Clever and smooth app – just getting a little frustrated by how much I’m getting smashed by Dr Green.” – Sore loser, UK
My own verdict – the minus points
• I kept losing. It was really annoying.
• Your good eco intentions may help you win the game, but until they become real life actions they won’t make a difference. Just like a gym membership, which for me has become a tax on my laziness.
• You could, in theory, lie about your eco actions. But that seems counter productive.
• Unlike the card version of Eco Action Trumps, the app doesn’t include information on the specific benefits of a particular action, such as why wrapping your boiler will save you money, or why a south-facing roof makes you the perfect candidate for solar panels.
• I felt at a disadvantage with the cards I had to pick. If, like me, you live in rented accommodation, you’re rendered powerless to take much eco action. There’s one mega boiler for my entire building, so I can’t wrap it. I don’t have the authority to solar panel the roof. I can’t double-glaze my windows. I win a round for my “30 degree washing machine setting” as I sit next to my radiator, broken on the “on” setting, heat blasting directly out of the single-glazed window while the landlord screens my calls. The actions I chose, like shorter showers (at least until I crush that Water Pebble) and walking to work (any day now…) were invariably trumped by other eco actions, ones taken by people who don’t need permission from a lax landlord to make their living situations greener. Environment-conscious homeowners are definitely the winners here.
And the plus points
• You can feel good about using it. The app is produced by a not-for-profit organisation – one that’s aiming to get packs into every primary school in the UK, no less.
• It’s free.
• It reminds you about the eco actions you can take. I, for one, had completely forgotten about switching the TV off at the wall – or, as the app put it, switching off the “energy vampires”. Which effectively makes me a VAMPIRE SLAYER.
• It makes you feel smug about things you’re already doing, which is rare. The last time that happened to me was when the hairstyle “sexy messy” came back in style and I resembled a trendsetter, not someone who couldn’t find her hairbrush.
• It’s fun, whereas the majority of eco actions feel like homework.
• It’s addictive yet guilt-free. How many guilt-free addictions are there, really?
• It’s genuinely educational, even for adults, as it gives you an idea of which eco actions are better than others in which ways. Until I won a “resources” round, it hadn’t occurred to me that recycling paper saved more resources than installing solar power – even though solar power is a better money saver.
This is a free, fun, useful app. Not only does it give you tips on living greener, it gives you measurements. Plus you occasionally get to yell “I win!” And when it comes to living a greener lifestyle, amid the constant reports that we’re destroying the planet, it’s nice to feel like you’re winning for once.
The app is available through the iTunes app store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Versions for Android and Windows OS are, I’m assured, on their way.