For years I have wondered: Why, if we can measure our fitness, or how many steps we are taking and thus get a measure of our overall health, why can’t we do the same with the environment? Why can’t someone create an app which “gamifies” us into cycling rather than driving, or taking a train or just generally pump less CO2 into the atmosphere, and creating global weirding? If we can create an addiction to Clash of Clans, why can’t we create an addiction to saving the planet?
Now a startup has made the first step in what I hope will become a really powerful platform.
Green tech startup Changers has launched CO2 Fit, a mobile app (available for iPhone and Android) that encourage fitness, rewards green behaviour, and – hopefully – will motivate you to reduce your CO2 emissions. Because Lord knows the Polar Bears would like you to.
(Last year Changers closed $1.5 million in Series A financing from German government-backed fund BFB Frühphasenfonds Brandenburg, with participation from Heliocentris, a specialist in clean energy, alongside additional private investors).
The idea with CO2 Fit is that you enter the journey you are about to make, be it driving, cycling, using a train, or taking a plane. The app then monitors your location, speed etc and comes up with an estimate of how much CO2 you probably emitted and converts it into a “Recoin” (Renewable Energy coin) – a unit they have come up with to represent every kilogram of CO2 the user saves.
If you saved CO2, you are rewarded with Recoins – the Changers digital currency. If you emitted CO2, for example by driving your car, your CO2 emissions are also displayed. Afterwards, you can offset a negative CO2 balance by using the Recoins you earned by biking and using public transit. Users can also create Recoins themselves through the production of renewable energy with the intelligent Changers Solar Charger, launched a couple of years ago. The app also displays awards, badges & worldwide rankings to motivate you.
So how does it work?
You earn a Recoin for every 1 kilometre on a bike, 5 kilometres on a bus, and 20 kilometres on a train. Some 50 kg of CO compensation costs 50 Recoins or the equivalent of 0.89 Euros. Furthermore, 1 tonne of CO2 compensation costs 1,000 Recoins or 9.99 Euros. So to earn 1,000 Recoins you’d need to cycle 1,000 kilometres.
You can only buy the Gold Standard CO2 Certificates to offset your carbon emissions if you have earned Recoin, and you can only earn Recoin by changing your behaviour. This way you can participate in CO2 emissions trading far more easily than is currently possible.
Whenever you earn at least 50 Recoins by traveling by bike, bus or train, you can purchase a climate certificate from within the Changers app, which represents a saving of 25 kilograms of CO2. These “Gold Standard climate certificates” were launched in 2003 by several environmental organisations, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). These are issued by the London CO2 certificate exchange. This is like buying a virtual good in a game which actually has some impact in the world.
There is also a big knock-on effect at work here. If people buy CO2 certificates through the app, the price of the certificates would rise. This would put pressure on companies who – in carbon trading – already have to buy certificates to compensate for their emissions. It would effectively incentivise them to improve the efficiency of their technology and use more green energy.
Users in 61 countries and 736 cities are now using the app to gamify their CO2 emissions. Who saves the most, gets ahead.
Changers co-founder Daniela Schiffer says she wants the app to be fun and help people become aware of the impact of their behaviour.
“For those journeys, that can’t be avoided especially flying, we offer to compensate those comfortably within the app right after your journey. So you don’t have to go to some website and go through a whole purchase process but have the possibility to compensate with one click in your app,” says Schiffer.
Indeed, Changers is also looking at building a real crypto-currency based on the value of renewable energy. However, it might now be Bitcoin, because mining a Bitcoin is increasingly using up huge amounts of energy, thus counteracting the savings Changers wants to achieve. I’d be very interested to see what they come up with instead.
Schiffer says Changers is talking with several cities and companies to introduce the app this year and offer citizens and employees bonuses for their CO2 savings with greener mobility types.
Perhaps CO2 Fit isn’t going to be the final app to ‘game’ us into saving the planet, but it’s a good start.