(Expansion on Blog Post: Pokémon Go Meets Environmental Cleanup)
Back in October, our cohort was tasked with writing a blog post about a wicked problem taking place in society today. The wicked problem I chose to address was the global problem of climate change and water pollution. This is such a vast problem that it’s hard to break down into small pieces to focus on individual issues we can address and try to solve. I proposed an innovative application that uses AI to gamify environmental cleanup, tackling a problem we’re all very familiar with as a society: littering.
This app would work similarly to Pokémon Go, using AR technology to identify litter on the ground and track the act of throwing it away or recycling it in the proper receptacles. The app would track cleanup tasks and assign points for each completed task, rewarding users for all of the trash that was picked up in their community.
I wanted to build on this idea further utilizing concepts we’ve covered in our Digital Marketing course. If an app like this were to be developed, there are some key points that need to be addressed. First, who would pay for the creation of this app? I believe a viable option could be an environmental agency, whether it’s the Environmental Protection Agency or other large organizations such as Sierra Club or The Nature Conservancy1. I also believe there’s an opportunity for popular retail companies to invest in the app’s development. Because the idea of this app is to grant rewards to users for cleaning up in their community, retail companies could invest and “buy in” to the app, providing funding as well as the opportunity to redeem points for merchandise credit to users.
Secondly, I wanted to address what the value proposition would be for both the funders and the end-users. The easiest one to address is the value proposition for the end-user; this is fairly simple. Using the app to complete tasks and clean up surrounding neighborhoods rewards users with points that are redeemable for merchandise credits. Cleaning up trash and other debris, in this way, puts money in the user’s pocket. Additionally, the user may see value in having a cleaner neighborhood, and ideally would feel the impact of the difference they’re making in their community.
As for the funder, their choice to invest and buy in to this app would be perceived, societally, as a choice for a greener future. It’s more important now than ever that major companies position themselves as companies that care about the environment. According to an article from Forbes Magazine, consumers are more careful with where they spend their money, and when they do spend, they prefer to spend money on companies and brands that are openly pro-social and exercise ethical business standards. Furthermore, the article touches on a report by Shelton Group that says, “…not only do consumers support corporate activism (86% want companies to stand for social issues) but also that 64% of them are likely to buy from such companies.2”
I think there’s hope for an app like this to be developed sooner rather than later. It’s clear that the environmental issues happening around the globe are not diminishing any time soon, and it’ll take a disruptive innovation like this app to allow individual citizens to take action and make a difference in their own communities.
- 25 Top Environmental Non-Profits, Cyndi Meuchel. Moneyminder.com, April 2014.
- Why Sustainable Branding Matters, Simonetta Lein. Forbes.com, August 2018.