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Gamifying Sustainability: Play to Save, Save to Win


Using gamification to incentivize consumer-level sustainable behavior is a relatively new strategy. It applies classic principals of game playing to encourage green living, offering a challenge, a platform for social competition, and a reporting system that quantifies performance. In an increasingly networked society fascinated with social media and gaming, tracking lifestyle behavior in a way that’s sharable and interactive transforms the mundane into the meaningful.

SWA Senior Sustainability Consultant Kai Starn is a member of NuRide, a smart-commute online community. NuRide’s app logs data on users’ daily commutes, specifically travel method and total distance, then provides a slew of performance metrics to scale their green contribution.

Relying mostly on a combination of train, bicycle, and foot trips, Kai’s recorded activity for the prior year amounts to:
• $500 saved in gas
• 908 miles not driven
• 41 gallons gas saved
• 13,000 calories burned
• 813 lbs. CO2 diverted

For the entire NuRide community in 2015, they took 7.3 million ‘greener’ trips resulting in:
• 132 Million Miles Not Driven
– That’s over 500 trips to the moon!
• 6 Million Gallons Saved
– That’s 600 tanker trucks or 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools!
• 60,000 Tons of Emissions Prevented
– That’s the equivalent of planting 131,000 trees or 5 Central Parks.

Beyond the social and ecological motives driving participation in NuRide, they offer regional deals and discounts for food and entertainment based on a point-system. Along with promoting healthy competition, this extends the reach and influence of the ‘green trip’ movement to local merchants, giving them a means to reward community behavior they support. For SWA’s Kai Starn, amassing 27,000 points earned him a grand-prize sweepstakes win good for a weekend of Vermont skiing. That’s a crunchy “carrot”!

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