In yet another great example of using digital technology to save energy and emissions, Recyclebank’s new iPhone app encourages Londoners to go retro in their transportation choices, by rewarding them for walking or biking to their destinations rather than driving or using public transportation. The mobile application, re:route, which is available so far only in the UK, provides directions and weather information to assist the decision-making process. Users are rewarded with feedback on how much CO2 they saved, how many calories they burned, plus five Recyclebank points for every time they use the app. The Recyclebank points can be redeemed at a number of participating locations including: Marks & Spencer, Planet Organic, Champneys and many more.
The program is supported by Transport for London (TfL) who is clearly seeing this as an opportunity to reduce congestion on the streets and underground lines, especially with the London Olympics coming up this summer.
“TfL is supporting re:route because it supports our wider efforts to encourage more people to consider cycling and walking as quick and convenient ways of getting around the city. More people cycling and walking will help to reduce congestion on our roads and on our busy public transport network,” said Ben Plowden, director of planning for TfL Surface Transport.
The program is also integrated with Barclay’s Cycle for Hire program which provides bicycles parked at docking stations throughout London, which travelers can rent with a simple swipe of a credit or debit debt card, leaving them at another station near their destination. (I recommend the video on their site. “Give it a go!”) There is an access fee of one pound which covers a 24-hour period. A thirty minute rental is free, while one hour costs a pound. Prices go up after that, maxing out at fifty pounds (about $80) for a twenty-four hour period. Clearly, the price structure is set up to encourage short term use.
The re:route app tells travelers just how many bikes are available at each docking station near the proposed route, so they have that information before they set out. A typical trip might involve walking to the nearest docking station, renting a bike, and then cycling to a docking station nearest your destination, and then finally walking the rest of the way. You can see that a trip like this, though both green and healthy, requires a bit of planning, which is why this latest offering from Recyclebank is so useful.
While it is not clear at the outset, exactly how much might be saved in carbon emissions from this program, it will clearly be beneficial. This application should and hopefully will be replicated in other cities.
Recyclebank is an online service that works with sponsors to create programs that reward green behavior, through a point system that can be redeemed for products from participating companies. It’s a way of connecting and motivating people who want to be greener, with companies that want to do something positive for the planet, turning green actions into rewards. They currently have over three million members and have been leveraging that online community with more online, and now mobile, applications. They started by working with municipalities to improve recycling rates. Now, they also provide information online, through their Learn and Earn program, giving points for reading educational material and taking quizzes, upcycling products, selling or donating used items rather than putting them into the trash, and so on.
I spoke with Ian Yolles, their Chief Sustainability Officer, last year and asked him if he saw recycling as a gateway drug to sustainability. He said he preferred to think of it as the thin edge of a behavioral wedge that had the potential to open the door to further participation.
This latest initiative will continue to open that door, especially if it moves to other locations around the world. I applaud Recyclebank for their creativity in coming up with clever ways to work the behavioral side of the sustainability equation.
[Image credit: Recyclebank: Flickr Creative Commons]
RP Siegel, PE, is the President of Rain Mountain LLC. He is also the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle.
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