IDEA! DIY “Nutrition Facts Label”

by Joseph Flaherty on February 18, 2012

Skier Jonny Mosely tweeted this picture of a sign that helped joggers equate their physical exertion to caloric intake. Depressingly you have to log 4.5 miles of running to work off one slice of pizza. It’s an unfortunate calculation, but it is certainly better to have the information.

What if the same principle was applied to amusement gluttony? If you read Clay Shirky’s excellent book “The Cognitive Surplus” you’ll learn that the time American’s spend watching TV every year would be sufficient to complete 3-4 new projects with the size and importance of Wikipedia. To put it another way, we could have 3-4 new excellent resources that make the world a better place OR we can have season 19 of Two and a Half Men”.

What if there was a “Nutrition Facts Label” or simple rules of thumb people could use to measure investment in learning a skill vs. watching TV. For example:

– The time you spend watching “Friends” (8 seasons x 24 episodes X 30 min) you could have mastered 20 new recipes.

– The average American watches 4.2 hours of TV a day. If you cut that in half, you could speak passable Italian in a year. You could speak fluently in 2.

– Cutting out a single one hour cable news program a week saves 52 hours, enough time to make a quilt or hope chest that will last for 50+ years.

Junk food and TV have a lot in common. Both are plentiful and very enjoyable in the short term. It is easy to add calories or lose hours without some kind of sign posts. Even with those numbers it is helpful to have tools like the sign above to be reminded of context. Maybe its time for a “DIY Nutrition Facts Label”?


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