The problem that my company, EcoTrump, is solving is how to create incentive and motivation for adopting green habits using social networking. For example when a user takes the train they can check in through a mobile application on their smart phone to earn EcoPoints. Users can form teams and challenge friends. Everyday actions like reusable grocery bags or a personal thermos at Starbucks can be made into a green quest. The EcoPoints accrue and can be spent on green sponsored products, badges, or be donated towards green improvements. The application uses group competition as the driving force to pit city vs. city or state vs. state and give various rewards at different levels. A digital Eco Drill Sergeant will instruct you on what you can do to immediately improve your efficiency.
Why Global Warming Should Be Addressed Using Competition
My name is John Horn and I am writing in the interest of doing a lot with a little. That is, creating a lot of energy savings using the minimum amount of capital necessary. I am a M.S. Candidate at Stanford in Atmosphere and Energy and have had the great opportunity to sit in on Nancy Jackson’s speech on the Climate and Energy Project. This project introduced the “Take Charge Challenge” which asked Kansas locals to save energy and most importantly broadcasted who saved the energy and how they compared to others. The massive success of creating a competition to save energy rather than just telling users to save energy is a strategy that I think should be expanded to every city in the nation. I will speak on the history, current, and future state of emissions and energy saving strategies available to the United States.
What Can History Teach Us
When the U.S. government introduced the Acid Rain Program as an amendment to the 1990 Clean Air Act there was skepticism and fear due to the implementation of a market driven cap and trade system to reduce sulfur emissions. The utility industry claimed the program would increase costs for ratepayers[i]. In reality the program “accounted for the largest quantified human health benefits of any major federal regulatory program implemented in the last 10 years, with benefits exceeding costs by more than 40:1.[ii]” The entire program was conducted under budget.
Now compare this to a fairly recent program called “Cash for Clunkers” where the government paid car owners to trade in their old cars for new more efficient cars with the hopes of decreasing emissions and bump starting the economy. The result, as determined by a University of Delaware study, shows the cost exceeds the benefit by $2000 per vehicle. Resulting in over a billion dollars in losses[iii]. In the first program a competitive system of punishments and rewards resulted in more being done under budget. In the latter program no competitive system was in place and less was done over budget. This brings us to today and the idea of competition applied at a statewide level.
A Success Story Today in Saving Energy Using Competition
In Salina, Kansas children can be found on Halloween searching for vampire electric loads, on Valentines Day restaurants use candle light over electric lighting, and on Christmas led lights have become the new standard. All of this buzz on saving energy started with a local competition called “Take Charge Kansas” started by Nancy Jackson. Nancy is the executive director of the Climate and Energy Project and revved up citizens to compete in the Take Charge Challenge, which works with public utilities to keep score of which towns and households are conserving the most energy. It is a friendly competition between 16 Kansas towns to reduce their utility bills. In summary the program has been a huge success and to date about $385,000 has been saved by this competition. Perhaps the most interesting part about this competition is its location. It was not conducted in San Francisco or New York City where technology and social media are intertwined but rather it was done in the Heartland region of the United States where the majority is hesitant about Global Warming and despises Al Gore.
The significance of this story is that game mechanics and town pride overcame ideas of global warming and political party awareness. By using groups or towns, individuals are encouraged to do better than they might on their own. The effectiveness of using game mechanics and groups of people is much greater than handing out rewards solely to individuals. For this reason I believe that if the United States wants to seriously curb global warming a nation wide competition should be developed to save energy.
Tools Available to Incorporate Game Mechanics with Solving Global Warming
The advantages available to us today with regards to logging and tracking ones carbon footprint include the web, social networking, smart phones, and smart meters. Companies like OPower offer realtime energy use data to customers of 6 major public utilities. Updates and data are sent to users mobile phones. All the technology is in place to create a national competition to reduce one’s footprint yet no one has attempted to fund such a project.
[ii] "Cap and Trade: Acid Rain Program Results." EPA, 2003. Web. <http://www.epa.gov/capandtrade/documents/ctresults.pdf>.
[iii] Abrams, Burton A. and Parsons, George R. (2009) "Is CARS a Clunker?," The Economists' Voice: Vol. 6 : Iss. 8, Article 4.
Founder: John Horn
I completed my B.S. at UCSD in BioChemistry/Chemistry and worked in an atmospheric chemistry lab for a year. It shocks me how much CO2 is increasing every year and how the worst predictions of CO2 rise become reality. I am now an M.S. candidate at Stanford studying Atmosphere and Energy in the CEE department. I believe a competition between friends, workplaces, cities, and states is the best way to get citizens personally involved in saving energy.
Revenue is generated through advertising, green product exposure, and the algorithm for listing participating establishments in your area.
Also looking to pitch this idea to government/DOE and public utilities as a method of obtaining energy efficiency using much less funds than "cash for clunkers" and previous well intentioned programs.