Carbon Footprints and Nagging Apps

March 18, 2021

Have you ever wondered how your latest trip to the grocery store affected your carbon footprint? Me neither.

Have you ever wondered how your latest trip to the grocery store affected your carbon footprint?

Yeah, me neither. But in case that ever becomes a concern – and you happen to live in the United Kingdom or Ireland – there is now Evocco, an app that purports to tell you that very thing with the snap of your phone’s camera.

Started by a couple of engineering students who recently graduated from Dublin’s prestigious Trinity College, Evocco reads the text of your grocery receipt from a picture you send from your phone. It then consults a database that, according to an article on CNN’s website, “calculates the carbon footprint based on the store's location and by checking the type, weight and origin” of each item you buy.

I’m personally a bit conflicted here. Fighting climate change is a worthy goal, and certainly something I’m interested in. On the other hand, “carbon footprint” has always seemed to me like the sale of indulgences by the pre-Reformation Church: a nebulous, abstract concept that, at its worst, monetizes guilt.

If I’m going to be nagged by an app, I’d rather it be about my own personal health or nutrition. Going for a run or not eating sweets will benefit me a lot more tangibly than, say, cutting down on shopping trips will benefit the environment.

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