Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



A variety of modern technologies reveal individual behaviors that have environmental consequences with increasing clarity. Smart meters and related technologies detect detailed information about when and how individuals use electricity within the home. Radio frequency identification ("RFID") chips embedded in recycling collection bins track household recycling behaviors, including everything from whether the household is recycling to whether its members properly separate their recyclables. Regulators use aerial imagery and geographic information systems ("GIS") technology to detect violations of local building codes and the illegal filling of wetlands. Interactive "ecomaps" allow city residents to compare environmental performance by zip code. Even information generated for entirely distinct purposes (for example, Global Positioning System ("GPS") devices for vehicles) yields insights into environmental behaviors (for example, driving behavior related to gas consumption). At the same time that the technological capability to identify individual behaviors with environmental consequences (or environmentally significant individual behaviors) is growing dramatically, many are also calling for environmental law and policy to reduce the environmental harms that those behaviors cause or exacerbate.