Tucked away in the Lower Haight neighborhood of San Francisco, among residential flats and independent coffee shops, you can find the office of Village Green Energy, a renewable energy certificate provider that’s been up and running since November 2007. In the office, the two young founders who graduated from Stanford in 2004, Robby Bearman and Mike Jackson, are revolutionizing the cross-section of social networking and environmental responsibility. Not only have they taken renewable energy to a new level, they’re bringing some great wineries with them.
Less than two weeks ago, on August 6th, Green My Vino launched into the realm of Facebook applications. While certainly not the first app with a green slant, Green My Vino is one of the most remarkable.
Conceptualized by Village Green and built by 750 Industries (another company founded by young Stanford folk), the application lets Facebook users give each other free online gifts worth one, five, or ten minutes of renewable energy. For each gift, Village Green purchases the equivalent amount of renewable energy (which comes from solar and wind projects in California) on the user’s behalf. But what makes the app incredible is that the overall goal is to leverage your Facebook activity to motivate wineries to go green. According to Jackson, “If it keeps up at this pace, we will have outraised any other environmental app.”
According to Bearman, the initial goal was to convert the first four wineries to green power purchasing in three to four weeks. In reality, they catalyzed enough activity for all four wineries to meet their commitments in five days.
To contextualize Green My Vino in the world of eco-apps, the most active “green” Facebook application is (Lil) Green Patch. At the top of each page, the app clearly boasts “38,886,327 sq ft saved.” To translate that a bit, it’s roughly 1.39 square miles (or the size of Central Park). The Causes application reports that (Lil) Green Patch has donated $54,650. At first glance, that doesn’t seem like a number to sneeze at. But in reality, given that the app has over 4.6 million active users every month, that comes out to be barely over a penny generated by each person since December 2007.
Green My Vino has only 2,748 monthly active users but since August 6th, the application has already generated $17,000 which goes directly to renewable energy resources in California. That works out to be $6.19 per person (or to draw a comparison, that’s 562% more raised per capita than Lil Green Patch).
The first four wineries to participate were Iron Horse Vineyards, Girard Winery, Windsor Vineyards, and Windsor Sonoma Vineyards. Each winery made commitments to converting their business practices to include green power purchasing as Green My Vino users reached various milestones based on the size and energy consumption of the winery (such as sending 10,000 minutes of gifts).
In the past few days, they have signed on Burning Hawk and Seghesio Family Vineyards. Tomorrow they will announce their most recent participant, and it’s a big one: Benziger Family Winery. Many of these wineries already have significant green practices already (such as organic farming and water recycling). In fact, Benziger is looking to operate on 100% on-site solar power within a few years, but Village Green offers a perfect interim solution to support renewable energy today.
By aggregating small businesses with a national focus, Village Green has allowed individuals to directly impact corporate practices. They also directly involve businesses in the application, while most other apps raise funds simply based on banner ads. It’s a solid deal for the wineries because until now, they haven’t had any Facebook presence. They reach an entirely new demographic and they do something good for the world.
So what does the future hold for Green My Vino? Bearman and Jackson ideally envision the app running for as long as possible (they’re also hoping to hold a wine tasting for all fans of the application sometime in the next month). They’ll also start looking toward the next Facebook project which will similarly involve harnessing social networking to incentivize corporate change. It’s a two-way street of consumer-business communication that leads straight to renewable energy for all. More on GreenBiz.com
Village Green Energy is (from left to right): Mike Jackson, Jordan Parrillo, Jodie Ellis, Matt Zatto, Robby Bearman, and Kristen Nelson (not pictured).
Cristina Foung is the Green Community Lead at Huddler.com, a research and review site for all things green from electric cars to organic toothpaste. With collaborative wiki articles, discussion forums, image hosting, product reviews, and more, the Green Home Huddle offers something for everyone, from the deep green eco-warrior to the eco-newbie.
Update: Green My Vino is making waves and was featured on GreenBiz.