How Big Is Your Impact?

Posted on September 15, 2010 by Courtney

Being green often is a matter of degrees — there are some people who believe they’re living green but do barely anything to reduce their footprint, while there are others who are constantly finding ways to lessen their impact even though they’re already living greener than most other people. Sometimes I wish there were a way to quantify everything we do and everything we possibly could do to make or lives greener. That way, we’d have an idea of what kind of impact we’re really making, and how we can keep improving our lifestyles.

Turns out, my wish has been granted! Recently I discovered Low Impact Living, a website that surveys your habits and living situation and assigns you a LILI (Low Impact Living Index) number. The survey asks you about what kind of home you have; what kind of appliances you have, how old they are, and how often you use them; how many vehicles you have, their make and model types, and how much you drive; your recycling habits; and a few other things about your lifestyle. Then it will give you a score between 0 and 150 rating your impact level — the higher your score, the higher your impact. You want this score to be as low as possible.

Along with your score comes a list of ways to decrease your LILI number — things like installing low-flow toilets and programmable thermostats, replacing your appliances with Energy Star ones when they bite the dust, and composting your food waste. You can save your profile and come back to check things off the list as you accomplish them, and your LILI score will go down as your life becomes greener. It’s a great visual way to assess how you’re living and gauge the effectiveness of your actions.

My LILI score is 43. I live in an apartment, so I have no control over the kind of appliances the apartment complex provides for me and I can’t go planting trees outside. But I can do things like use biodegradable detergents (which I do) and install a low-flow showerhead (which I should do). My score is well below average, which makes me feel good about myself, but I love that Low Impact Living provides me with a to-do list of things I could still do to live greener.

What’s your score? What’s first on your list to lessen your impact?


  1. 48! Whoo-hoo! I don’t think slow-flow shower heads save any money – I have noticed that when I stay in a hotel with slow flow shower heads, I take a much longer shower, to thoroughly rinse my hair. I’m interested in adding some solar panels to my house, since I have a nice expanse of south-facing roof.

    September 15th, 2010 at 8:09 am
    Comment by Abby
  2. I don’t know if I estimated everything right, but it says I’m a 66. I know we saved some points because the MLM’s car is 12 years old, but we lose a bit because our house is so old that it could use better insulation and heating/cooling systems.

    I’m slowly replacing all the bulbs leftover from the previous homeowners with CFLs as they burn out, and the MLM and I are going to plant a tree or two, add more plants to our yard and get a rain barrel. Everything else is going to be a slow change as appliances and heating/cooling breaks and we have the money to replace them with efficient stuff.

    September 15th, 2010 at 9:29 am
    Comment by The Modern Gal
  3. I generally hate all those “How green are you?” questionnaires because they miss so much, focusing more on the age of your clothes dryer rather than if you actually ever use it, but this one actually seemed pretty comprehensive.

    September 15th, 2010 at 11:31 am
    Comment by mickey
  4. I’m below the regional average, but I’m at 91. Actually, I’m WELL below everything but runoff and trash. Surprisingly, even with three refrigerators and a full-size freezer, I’m at less than 50% on energy usage. Around 75% for water and waste water and around 50% on money. I’m at 100 for trash (no recycling in the rural area I live in and a friend called the guy in charge of recycling in town and they actually throw all of the recycling except cans in the trash so it’s pointless even in town.) On runoff I’m at like 300% and that bar jacked up only because I entered the maximum acres because I’m on 5 acres. I’m not sure I buy that. If I didn’t own the 5 acres, that five acres would still exist. Plus, the water doesn’t really go anywhere except into my pond. There’s not really a hill. Also, what exactly is running off that wouldn’t run off if this were the woods? It’s entirely covered in plants and I’ve never put any chemicals or fertilizer on it and never will.

    Basically, I’m saying that I think that if it measured my real runoff accurately, that I’d be in the 70s, although I also have issues with energy use. I can’t believe I’m that much better than the average person in my region. Seriously, 3 fridges and a freezer and I’m at 75%?

    September 15th, 2010 at 3:16 pm
    Comment by Jacob
  5. Just checked. Just bump me down to 1 acre and I’m suddenly “pretty low impact.” 61.

    September 15th, 2010 at 3:18 pm
    Comment by Jacob
  6. Hm, interesting. I’m at 41, but I suspect skewing in a few areas. For example, we do not own a washer or dryer, but that doesn’t mean we don’t use them. There isn’t an “I go to the laundromat once a month” option, however. Also, how may of us really know how old our water heater/air conditioner/heater is? Unless you own the place, and have been there awhile, these questions are a bit “eh- probably replaced in the last 10 years?” And our car is so old I couldn’t put the year in accurately…I like the little list of improvements, though.

    September 19th, 2010 at 4:39 pm
    Comment by Melissa
  7. Replace the clothes dryer with a clothes line!

    September 25th, 2010 at 8:40 pm
    Comment by Norma
  8. For some of us, this little green calculator doesn’t give the entire picture. We heat w/ wood, planted 40 trees in just one year, grow most of our own food, make our own green cleaners, even shampoo, buy no convenience foods, etc etc. There’s a lot that we do that isn’t listed here. But for some people, it is a wake up call. Love reading your posts!

    December 15th, 2010 at 1:34 pm
    Comment by Marianne

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