The 80/20 rule

Posted on February 4, 2011


This post isn’t anything new. But it bears summary, repetition, and reapplication. Efficiency is a really tricky duck to pin down. Just ask any gear-head about fuel efficiency in a car–you’ve got the size of the engine, the weight of the car, wind resistance, the tire size and type, style of driving, transmission type…What do you optimize? One extreme is to say, “All of them.” But what if you can’t fix everything? What do you choose? This is where the 80/20 rule applies.

Called the Pareto principle, the idea is simple: choose the top 20% variables that effect 80% of the results. It can be seen all over the place: charge your cell phone battery for 20min to get an 80% charge; lower health care costs of the top 20% most expensive patients and you decrease costs overall by way more than that; help out “expensive citizens” (an example that really gets to what I want to say) and you make a huge improvement; even your work habits.

When it comes to green, there’s so much to do, where do we start? The top 20%. Adding renewable energy sources to our total usage is important, but increasing our use efficiency by a mere 20% would eliminate the need for new conventional power plants and allow investment in those new technologies. (Ex. use refrigerators that use 60% less energy than a typical unit…yes, they exist.) Reduce/Reuse/Recycle the top 20% most used resources and you decrease waste by 80%. (Ex. compost your food waste in addition to your usual recycling.)


Author: Ian Mac Moore. Check his blog out: Incarnate Green.
Posted in: Ian Mac Moore