Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

Test your green-Q with our year-end trivia quiz

By Sustainable Minds on December 28, 2009

During these short days at the end of the year when you find yourself wondering what to do next (with or without all that company in your house), try this Green Trivia Quiz. It’s taken from our perusals of some of the quirkier green stories we’ve seen this year.

  1. What’s greener, reading the New York Times on a PDA or on paper?
  2. What plastic bottles are safe to re-use, by numerical designation?
  3. Name the Green Car of the Year.
  4. Name the six most prevalent greenhouse gases.
  5. What common social ritual produces 63 tons of CO2 and 400-600 pounds of trash?
  6. What do all the numbers on plastic bottles represent?
  7. How much energy do buildings consume in the U.S., by percentage?
  8. What is LCA and why is it an important factor in product design?
  9. In a conventional washing machine, what percentage of energy is used to heat the water?
  10. A prominent story this year featured a racing car made from recycled materials that runs on which biofuel?
  11. What team won this year’s Solar Decathlon challenge for energy-efficient, solar-powered homes?


  1. According to a 2004 study, cited in an article about noted Berkeley engineering professor Arvad Horpath, reading the NYT wirelessly consumes 140 times less CO2 and 26 to 67 times less water. Which explains why we didn’t print these answers upside down. 

  2. According to the Yale Sustainability Blog, 2 (high-density polyethylene), 4 (low density polyethylene) and 5 (polypropylene) are re-usable.

  3. Trick question! According to Green Car Journal, the green car of 2009 was the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, a clean diesel that achieves estimated highway fuel economy of 41 mpg. The green car of 2010, just announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show, is the Audi A3 TDI, that gets 42 miles per gallon.

  4. Water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, CFC-12 (dichlorodifluoromethane) are the six primary sources of greenhouse gases.

  5. According to the Green Bride Guide, one wedding generates produces 63 tons of CO2 and 400-600 pounds of trash – and there are 2.5 million weddings every year in this $60+ billion industry.

  6. From the coolrain44 blog:
    # 1 –> PET … polyethlyene terephthalate
    # 2 –> HDPE … high-density polyethylene
    # 3 –> PVC … polyvinyl chloride
    # 4 –> LDPE … low-density polyethylene?
    # 5 –> PP … polypropylene?
    # 6 –> PS/PS-E … polystyrene / expanded polystyrene
    # 7 –> OTHER … resins or multi-materials

  7. Between 39 and 43 percent of all energy is used to heat, cool, ventilate or illuminate buildings in the U.S., depending on whose numbers you follow. Either way, it explains why upgrading the building envelope, insulation and systems of existing buildings is a high priority of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

  8. Well this one should be easy, for those familiar with Sustainable Minds LCA software: it means life cycle assessment, and LCA is the best way to determine the environmental sustainability of a product. Because LCA looks at all stages of a product's life cycle, including 'end of life', you can determine how meaningful it is to recycle products or parts after their useful lifetime, and to specify recycled materials in the manufacturing process.

  9. According to the Department of Energy, 90% of the energy in a conventional top-load washing machine is used to heat the water. That’s why many environmentally-conscious homeowners simply wash their clothes in cold water.

  10. Chocolate – well, actually, waste fat from chocolate factories – was used to power the Formula 3 car, built at the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Center in Warwick, Britain. Demonstrating biofuels -- the waste chocolate comes from Cadbury’s nearby plant, according to the New York Times – the car’s body is constructed from recycled bottles, carbon fiber and soybean oil.

  11. The 2009 Solar Decathlon was held Oct. 9-18 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and challenged 20 student teams to design, build, and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house. First Place went to Technische Universitat Darmstadt, the team that also won at the last Solar Decathlon, in 2007.