Sunday, October 14, 2012

Making it easier to do the right thing - Is there an app for that?

I was out running this morning and came across this:

A beer can on the road.

I'll pick up the occasional piece of garbage while I'm out and about, but I don't want to lug it all the way home with me.  I definitely didn't want to run very far carrying a beer can because, you know, people would talk.

I happened to be on a familiar path and knew that there was a garbage can right around the next corner, so:

That made me think that there must be plenty of like-minded people walking around Saskatoon, that is, people who will pick up a piece of garbage, but only if they know a garbage can is handy.  They may be motivated to do the right thing (clean up their neighbourhood) but need a little help to follow through.

Here's a suggestion for some entrepreneurial programmer:

Smartphone app that people activate when they are in an outdoor public space.  The GPS-enabled phone signals when a garbage can is within X metres (X varies according to individual preference).  Maybe there would be a recorded voice encouraging the user to "Pick it up" or "Let's clean up".

Each city would need to enter the locations of garbage cans.  This could be done by municipal employees who geo-locate garbage cans, once again with GPS-enabled phones.  Or, public users could contribute the locations.  This might be a revenue source for the app developer, as each city would need a unique database of garbage cans, licensed on the developer's server.

Individual users could record their contribution by logging the number of pieces of garbage they pick up.  Nothing like a little competition to encourage participation!  Users could submit pictures of the trash they pick up, with prizes for the most unusual object.

I'm not sure if there are researchers studying trash, but if there are, they could ask users to log the type of litter they find (e.g. fast food packaging including the restaurant name) to better understand the source of the garbage, and lobby the responsible businesses to reduce packaging.

Anyone up for this?