Individual consumer choice is a primary driver of the current patterns of production and consumption common in North America and many other parts of the world. A growing number of people wish to purchase products and services that have a lower environmental “footprint” with regard to pressures on natural resources to produce, use and dispose of these products. What are often missing, however, are information tools that enable consumers to distinguish easily between similar products or service choices, and thereby direct purchasing decisions toward those products that have a lower environmental impact. In addition, businesses are disconnected from consumer interest in green practices that will encourage them to adjust their practices accordingly. In short, there is a growing need for an information tool that provides an easy and enjoyable way to find and promote eco-friendly businesses, to accompany the growing demand for environmentally sustainable products.
The overall goal of the Find Green initiative is to connect green-minded people with green-practicing businesses. This project is creating an online tool, specifically a smartphone application (or app) to assist consumers in making green choices in real time. The Find Green app will enable users to find and promote businesses that demonstrate sustainable practices (e.g., recycling, energy efficiency, organic and local food, etc.). The Find Green app is modeled after the numerous user-interface based rating systems for restaurants and other businesses (e.g., the Yelp app). In contrast to these platforms, though, the Find Green app will provide a rating of sustainability based on users’ responses to a series of simple observation-based questions tied to sustainability. Focusing first on eateries (i.e., restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and bars), the responses will be the basis of a combined, posted rating for the business that will be similar to star-based rating systems. Gaming will also be a critical component to ensure continued engagement and to build a sense of community. The comparative advantage of the app will be in creating a database of “certified” green businesses and green-minded users, and could eventually be incorporated into a broader rating platform, such as Yelp, Google Maps or Trip Advisor.
The NAPECA grant will support the proof of concept for the Find Green app. At the end of the year, a functional Find Green will be ready to use. There are several additional products critical to developing and then using the app, which will also be developed as part of this first-year development phase. These include: establishment of an Advisory Board, devising a rating system for the app, and producing a business and marketing plan to determine the financial viability and mechanisms to attract users.
Find Green will be a tool usable by anyone in North America, and eventually introduced to Europe and other parts of the world. This project aims to enable consumers in North America to direct their purchasing choices toward products and services that support environmental sustainability, use natural resources sustainably, and thereby encourage patterns of sustainable production and consumption. The most immediate beneficiaries will be green-minded individuals seeking green-practicing businesses; however, since the app will be publicly available it can potentially benefit all consumers. Green-practicing businesses will also benefit by gaining market access to green-minded consumers.