How Can You Live Greener? Ask 'The Crowd'
You’ve heard all the phrases before. Two heads are better than one. We is greater than me. None of us is as smart as all of us.
These teamwork-extolling adages are commonly found in sport, business, and large-scale projects. But the same idea also applies to the environment – more specifically, to finding new ways to live greener and embrace sustainable practices.
The 21st-century term for this phenomenon is “crowdsourcing,” and it’s encouraging more and more people to get involved in combating environmental challenges together. Here are three examples of green crowdsourcing.
One of the most visible types of crowdsourcing involves getting ordinary people to enter information into their smartphones, and this data is then added to a master file, database, or map for everyone to benefit from. This approach is the basis of numerous apps for finding low gasoline prices, avoiding traffic congestion, or even locating clean public bathrooms.
A product called Tzoa was unveiled earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It’s actually a portable sensor that hooks up to a smartphone and records several different environmental conditions. Users of Tzoa are urged to move outdoors to help get air pollution readings in their communities to create a real-time crowdsourced air quality map for the app.
A tried-and-true method of addressing a problem is to hold a contest and offer an attractive prize to the person with the best solution. Companies have been doing this with advertising and marketing for a long time, but green groups are finally starting to embrace this “gamification” concept as well.
Internet platform InnoCentive has partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund to offer numerous InnoCentive challenges to environmentalists and scientists. People from around the world can submit their ideas, and the chosen challenge winner can receive prizes anywhere from $10,000 to over a quarter million dollars. Recent environmental challenges included finding new water treatments to remove metals from mine discharge, revolutionary processes to screen for chemical safety, and better methods for in-vitro regeneration of plants.
When you combine the areas of crowdsourcing and monetary financing, you get what is known as crowdfunding. It’s designed to benefit smaller people, companies, groups, or initiatives who can’t obtain a major grant or substantial investment through traditional channels. Basically, the worthy cause is put up on a website and visitors can contribute small amounts of money electronically, with the hope that enough of them will do so to reach the epxressed funding goal.
A site called WorthWild is using this approach to crowdfund eco-friendly initiatives. Its clients are green groups, schools, and environmental trusts who need money to build, create, or finance a particular project. Recently, WorthWild contributors raised $4,000 in scholarships for ten people to attend the Childhood Learning with Nature training conference, $10,000 for the Amphibian Survival Alliance to obtain more than ten thousand acres of habitat for amphibians, and $25,000 for American Latino to host its Eco-Festival in Colorado.
Here’s another teamwork idiom for you: a single leaf casts no shade. The implication is that you need thousands or even millions of leaves to block out the sun’s rays and cool the earth. It’s just another reminder that it takes everybody to help make a difference in the environment and protect our planet from harm.
Written by Del Thebaud