Sustainable superheroes: which hero is the most eco-friendly?
16 November 2021 | OVO Energy
Climate change and its impact on the world around us is something that we can’t hide from. Right now, the world needs a hero. But in a world where Captain Planet (remember him?) has disappeared from the mainstream, who can we look to for eco-inspiration?
Here at OVO Energy, we’re all working toward a greener future. Through small changes to our day-to-day lives we can have a more positive impact than we may expect. So, we decided to hold so-called ‘superheroes’ to account on some of the changes that we mere mortals are being tasked with. How super are they when it comes to sustainability?
To work out which heroes are helping the planet as well as saving the world, we’ve ranked each superhero on the following criteria, with the lowest score equaling the lowest impact.
- Living arrangements
- Damage to the world around us
Here’s how they scored:
The superheroes who are saving – and preserving – the planet
Aquaman is keeping his ocean home green
Repping ocean-based environmentalism, Aquaman is the most eco-friendly superhero around. With no need for a car, a love of his ocean friends, and green living arrangements (Atlantis has a zero-tolerance policy to fossil fuels), this half-human, half-Atlantean is super sustainable. He should probably have a chat to the other members of the Justice League if he wants to keep the oceans in a good state.
Daredevil is not blind to the need for sustainability
After a childhood filled with tragedy, from being blinded by a radioactive substance to becoming an orphan, Daredevil is not one to make others’ lives more difficult. In fact, his ability to focus the damage he causes on his enemies through hand-to-hand combat, his modest living arrangements, and keeping most of his efforts in a single city makes him a real hero.
The Flash knows that helping the planet is a marathon, not a sprint
Being struck by lightning could make someone incensed at nature, but it seems the only things struck into The Flash that day were a desire to save humanity and the environment. Teaming up with the Justice League brings his score down (have you seen the enemies they attract?), but choosing to run to work rather than drive is a big plus. He also wastes very little clothing due to his reusable supersuit. He may be fast, but his fashion is not.
The superheroes who side with ego over eco
Batman’s over-consumption makes him a bad man
While the Batcave and Batmobile are extremely cool, they are not particularly green. His lavish living arrangements and garage full of various gas-guzzling vehicles make Batman the least sustainable superhero of all. With all that money, and all those iterations of the Batmobile over the years, isn’t it time that Batman went electric?
In fact, despite their obvious flaws, some of Batman’s villains actually had a better eco-score than he did. Take the likes of Catwoman, who’s thrifty with upcycling clothing. Even Poison Ivy has a clear love of greenery and tree-planting!
Making an example of the X-Men
A number of the X-Men scored poorly on our list, and the two main factors behind this were the X-Mansion and their private jet. While a number of the X-Men can fly under their own power, many of them need to get around using a jet which really ramps up their carbon footprint. Plus, many of them live in the same super high-tech house. Even if some of the gadgets could be powered by their own abilities, you would have to assume that there is high energy consumption happening at X-Mansion.
Beyond their living arrangements though, the X-Men can be quite a destructive and wasteful group:. There’s Gambit with his explosive playing cards, Cyclops with his likely to damage laser vision, and Storm with her ability to control the weather to her own advantage. It’s all a recipe for major environmental damage.
The villains who have the earth’s best interest at heart
Looking at the good traits of comic villains is a hard sell. After all, many comic villains are genuinely awful creatures out to see the destruction of other people, or earth, or both. But a number of villains actually pose a much lower risk to the environment than their superhero counterparts.
Loki is low-key an environmentalist’s best friend
Constantly causing mischief, the only thing Loki isn’t ruining is the environment. Since he doesn’t technically live on earth – unless he’s in prison – his actions rarely affect the climate on our planet. This makes him extremely sustainable by earth’s standards (is that cheating?).
On his various trips to our world, as a master sorcerer and shape-shifter, it’s hard to know what impact Loki’s powers have on the environment since he usually influences others to do his dirty work for him. However, as far as transport goes, teleportation and astral projection seem as green as his cape.
Catwoman knows that earth only has one life
Catwoman, much like household cats, often flits between hero and villain. But considering the large carbon footprint of her counterpart Batman, Catwoman seems like much less of a villain. She causes very little damage to the surrounding area and has a pretty sustainable fight style, using hand-to-hand combat and a whip. So, while she might be an expert thief and complicated anti-heroine, at least she isn’t ruining the environment.
The villains who are bad to the bone – and the environment
Lex Luthor is the archnemesis of Superman and the earth
Lex Luthor may just be a human, but his damage to the environment is super huge. His hefty bank account all goes toward taking down Superman, which means that everything he owns has to be high-powered. He causes plenty of damage to his surroundings in fights, and feels like he needs to use extremely destructive weapons. He also travels in ways that produce a despicable amount of CO2. He’s a villain through and through.
The Joker laughs in the face of climate change
Of course the Joker doesn’t take the environment seriously. The weapons he uses are extremely damaging to the world around him, and his penchant for laughing gas means he’s always pumping harmful substances into the atmosphere. Beyond his use of gasses, he’s often found causing damage in Gotham City whether he’s robbing a bank or trying to lure Batman into danger.
Where can our heroes improve?
Let’s take a closer look at each category to find where our heroes excelled, and where there's room for improvement.
The good guys in this category are really good. We had 10 heroes that scored an eco-friendly 0 in this category, which meant that how they choose to get around shouldn’t have much of an impact on the environment. The likes of Aquaman, Captain Marvel, Superman, Dr Strange, The Flash, and Spider-Man all use their super abilities to get from A to B.
When we think of heroes and transport, it’s difficult not to think of Batman. A millionaire with the Batmobile, a jet, a motorbike, a boat - and that’s all just for when he’s being Batman. Bruce Wayne also has a garage filled with supercars and classic cars to boot. With all that money, we’d love to see Bruce Wayne start investing in some more eco-friendly technology. Who knows, it might even make Gotham City look a little less…. grim.
We might have been a little harsh to Iron Man here. When it comes to cash-rich superheroes, he’s probably the one doing the most around sustainable energy. In fact, Tony Stark has invested heavily in a renewable energy source which he uses to power Stark Tower and his Iron Man suits.
In the movie Iron Man 3, he even drove an electric Audi R8. Unfortunately though, in the other movies, his cars have been gas-guzzlers. And, just like his Avengers teammates, his reliance on the QuinJet has impacted his score.
The people our heroes are trying to save probably wouldn’t thank them for showing up on the bus or by bike, but can they lower their impact at all? We looked at whether superheroes had to travel distance to ‘work’ and if they did - how were they getting there? Are they driving into the city from the limits like Batman, or are they flying in like Superman?
Localised heroes such as The Flash, Spider-Man, and Daredevil score well in this category. They’re all best known for working in a concentrated city or section of a city area, and because of that they all get to where they need to go in an eco-friendly way.
The worst offenders were the worldwide heroes that relied on regular jet travel. This included members of The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and The X-Men. Plane travel has the highest carbon emissions per passenger of any mode of transport*.
When it comes to secret hideaways, heroes and villains live in a variety of places: from house-shares with their parents to the Kingdom of Atlantis. It’s no secret that 26% of carbon emissions come from home energy. Do our heroes live in energy-hungry mansions, or are they keeping it modest? Are they already using green energy to power their headquarters?
The heroes that scored best in this category either didn’t live on this planet (Captain Marvel, Thor), were living a relatively normal, modest life (The Flash, Daredevil) or were taking advantage of Tony Stark’s renewable energy at the Avengers headquarters. Black Panther also gets a thumbs up for powering Wakanda on Vibranium, which is considered a non-renewable but natural power source (it’s just a shame that it isn’t readily available).
Those that scored worst were the X-Men, who live in the super high-tech X-Mansion, which must use a serious amount of energy to power the school. The Fantastic Four headquarters, Batman’s Batcave and Wayne Manor and Moon Knight’s mansion. You have to wonder if they’re leaving all those gadgets and gizmos on standby or if they’re using smart plugs to make sure everything switches off.
Around 350,000 tonnes of clothing end up in landfill every single year, which hugely impacts the environment. The heroes that scored well here were those who invested in their supersuits. A good supersuit can withstand many rounds of superhero fighting. Not only that, if you’ve invested in an item of clothing, you’re more likely to repair it than to replace it.
At the opposite end of the scale, you’ll find the likes of The Incredible Hulk, who goes through clothing at a rapid rate every time he transforms. And Superman’s telephone box outfit changes might be iconic - but where does the Clark Kent outfit go? Heroes like She-Hulk and Luke Cage are super-strength bruisers who will happily start a fight, which means that any normal clothing they might be wearing will get damaged.
Spider-Man is another who changes into his supersuit on the go, and often leaves behind his Peter Parker outfit in alleyways. Hopefully he goes back to pick it up at some point!
Weapons/abilities and damage to the world around us
Despite having our best interests at heart, the more ‘super’ a hero is, the more chance they have of doing damage to their surroundings. How often have you watched a superhero movie and thought - who is paying for all these buildings to be fixed? Superman’s super-strength, laser vision, and breath capable of blowing a hurricane-level gale can’t be good for the nearby landscape.
Even heroes that don’t have supernatural powers (looking at you, Batman) cause a lot of damage. They tend to rely on disposable and harmful weapons.
The heroes that scored best in this category are those that have a reusable weapon, or rely on their fighting skills to save the day.
The hero earth deserves and needs right now
By looking at the scores of each superhero, it’s clear that if they did exist in our reality, their work might raise a few questions about whether they do more harm than good in the fight against climate change. Leaving destruction at every turn, and wasting far too many perfectly good outfits (yes, Hulk, we mean you), it’s fair to say that even superheroes need to make some changes to lower their environmental impact.
You don’t need the money of Bruce Wayne, or abilities of Superman to help save the planet, though. There are plenty of small changes that you can make daily to lower your carbon footprint, and OVO Energy is committed to being your sidekick throughout it all.
Each hero and villain was scored over a number of categories with the lowest score meaning the least environmental impact. We took the most well-known version of every hero and villain checked, but with such a rich history in the characters there may be times throughout history that they acted differently.
- Transport Points system scored out of 21: spaceship = 6, planet/jet = 5, boat = 4, fossil fuelled transport (car) = 3, motorcycle = 2, green energy transport = 1, travel via abilities = 0
- Living arrangement point system scored out of 5: large high gadget house = 5, small high gadget house/large regular house = 4, regular house/farm = 3, apartment = 2, natural location/green energy powered = 1, does not live on earth = 0
- Commute point system scored out of 5: Regular space travel (via vehicle) = 5, Regular world travel (via vehicle) = 4, Domestic air travel = 3, Drives/rides from outside city = 2, Innercity driver = 1, Does Not use a vehicle / green travel = 0
- Clothing point system scored out of 3: Regularly wastes clothing = 3, sometimes wastes clothing = 2, regular clothing use = 1, Doesn't waste clothing = 0
- Weapons & Abilities point system scored out of 20: Poison/Gas/Fire/Explosives = 5, Weather/Element Manipulation = 4, Guns/Lasers = 3, Object manipulation/disposable weaponry/super strength = 2, Reusable melee weapons/enhanced strength = 1, Hand to hand combat/mind control = 0
- Damage to Surroundings point system scored out of 5: Destructive (wipe out buildings/blocks) = 5, Very High (serious damage to area) = 4, High (notable building damage) = 3, Some damage = 2, Limited damage (broken windows etc) = 1
1 Based on analysis carried out by the Carbon Trust for OVO Group (2019), 26% of an average individual’s carbon footprint in the UK comes from energy. In this analysis, the carbon footprint includes the following lifestyle categories: energy, transport, shopping, food and drink and holidays. See table for each category. This excludes emissions from things that the average person cannot directly control such as supporting the NHS, defence, government bodies, etc.