For Earth Day, a sustainability game you can play with your friends

Published Tuesday, April 12, 2016 in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal and the Fredericton Daily Gleaner.

Most people know about Earth Day, held annually to promote global environmental awareness and action.  It happens next week, on Friday, April 22.

But if you missed International Games Day – held each November to promote fun, camaraderie and learning through the playing of games of all types – don’t despair.  Here’s a simple way to combine the fun and learning of International Games Day with the sustainability focus of Earth Day.

Modifying a classic

Picture a gameboard with a 10-by-10 grid of squares numbered one through 100.  Any number of people can play, and the winner is the first person to reach the last square.

It’s a lot like that classic board game, snakes and ladders – except that there’s no dice to roll, no ladders to boost you up and no snakes to pull you down.  In this version, you advance or fall back based on your answers to sustainability questions.  

Ready to give it a try?  Let’s get started.  (And if you don't have a gameboard, no worries - you can just use a sheet of paper to keep track of your score.)

At home

If you’ve checked your doors and windows for drafts and replaced weatherstripping where needed, you’re off to a running start; advance 15 spaces.

If you heat with wood or wood pellets, advance 15 spaces.

If you heat with a heat pump of any kind, advance 10 spaces.

But if you heat with electric baseboard heaters, go back 15 spaces.

If you have solar panels of any kind (for heating, hot water or electricity), advance 30 spaces.

Advance 10 spaces for each low flow showerhead you have.  Take a 15 space bonus if you shower fewer than seven times per week.

If your attic and basement are well insulated, advance 20 spaces.

Advance three spaces if you know what ENERGY STAR means.  Advance five spaces for each ENERGY STAR appliance in your home.

Advance 10 spaces if you use a clothesline more than a dryer; go back 10 spaces if it’s the other way around.

If you wash most of your laundry in cold water, advance five spaces.

Advance five spaces if 90 per cent or more of your lights are CFLs or LEDs.

On the road

If you regularly take public transit, advance 30 spaces.

If you carpool, advance 20 spaces.  If you commute solo, go back 10.

If you drive a hybrid vehicle, advance 10 spaces.  If you drive an electric vehicle, advance 20 spaces.

Advance one space for every time you’ve checked the air pressure in your tires in the past year.

If you commute in an SUV, go back 10 spaces.  If you commute in a pickup truck, go back 15 spaces.  If you drive a Hummer, go to square one.

If you use a drive-through regularly, go back five spaces.

If your vehicle idles more than one minute per day, go back five spaces.

Food and drink

Advance three spaces if you drink only tap water; go back three if you drink bottled water.

Advance 10 spaces for every vegetarian supper you have per week.

Estimate what percentage of your diet is Maritime-grown food, and advance that number of spaces.  Bonus: advance three spaces if your beer of choice is brewed in NB.

Estimate what percentage of your food is wasted, and go back that number of spaces.


Advance 15 spaces if you compost, five if you recycle paper and 10 if you recycle all metal and plastic.  Double if you do the same at work.

Advance five spaces for every tree you’ve planted in the past year.

If you fly, go back one space for every kilogram of luggage you take along.

Advance 50 spaces if environmental issues guide who you vote for. 

Tallying up

So – did you reach 100?  If so, bravo – the planet needs more winners like you!

But if not, perhaps Earth Day is a good time to wonder why, and reflect on some changes you can make.