The Google Chrome web store recently released a new browser plug-in that allows users to view the carbon emissions associated with driving routes suggested by Google Maps. If you’re a carbon geek, there’s even an option to enter your particular car’s emission factor instead of using the default values.
While the application is still in an early development stage, the creators seem very open to feedback. The plug-in is free, and it’s a great way to visualize your environmental impact on a daily basis. Though the comparative results for different routes are not surprising (shorter is better), the in-your-face reminder of the impact of driving may inspire you to walk, bike, or take public transit instead. Of course, the TerraPass driving calculator is always available if you are interested in seeing your annual impact, fine-tuned to your vehicle.
The developer plans to add public transport calculations soon, which might prove very interesting, if only to provide broad estimates – as Google Maps’ transit mode distinctions are few, using a single emission factor for each mode will necessarily result in estimates which are more “directional” than precise.
The plug-in has other limitations. For instance, it does not reflect the correct carbon emissions of walking or bicycling, which should be zero. Also, the results are listed in grams, whereas annual driving emissions are often provided in thousands of pounds, making it harder to grasp the impact of a daily commute to work.
The plug-in also includes some tips on how to reduce your carbon emissions. We’ll wait patiently for updates to the carbon emissions calculator and mapping service, but in the meantime, we applaud the creators for their efforts.