If you haven’t already read our mid-summer update (found here) I’ll give you the abridged version.
My name is Angela Antony, and my cofounder’s name is Sandra Ekong. We were roommates at Harvard.
Like most things hip and cutting edge, Beanstockd was born in Paris. Sandra and I lived there for 6 months during our junior year in college; it was there that we discovered that we were an unstoppable duo, that snails are ocassionally edible (it’s really a personal choice), and that our chic Parisian lifestyle revealed some fundamental problems with the way we lived our lives in America.
After six months of 5 minute showers, air-drying clothing, and 5-dollar bottles of water (quoi?), even we were taken aback by our callous consumption back in the states. The light bulb was the realization that it took only 2-3 months abroad for two non-environmentalists to comfortably adopt a way of life that avoided overconsumption. Our mission became to find a way to recreate the subtle social pressure we experienced while living in Europe that caused us to change our behavior. If we could compel people to make these small, almost negligible lifestyle changes on a mass scale in the US, we surmised, it could make a very decisive difference in the environmental movement. From the streets of Paris to the basement computer lab of Lowell House at Harvard, the Beanstockd Project was born.
Months of debate, dialogue, and due diligence allowed us to pinpoint three major gaps in the environmental movement that we felt were not being adequately addressed: negative stigma, lack of personal accountability, and lack of incentive system (read more here).
Our comprehensive solution: The Beanstockd Project (www.beanstockd.com), a social media project comprised of an online news source (Beanstockd News) and The Beanstockd Game, an environmental competition powered by real-life pro-environmental actions. Beanstockd is led by an incredibly passionate 20+ person team, with a readership hundreds of thousands strong, creating a model of environmental action that is not only novel — built on socially and psychologically-sound principles — but highly scalable and self-sustaining. We look forward to your comments, challenges, and ideas as we fill you in on the issues we’ve overcome and the ones that we face in our rescue mission to save the world, one tongue-in-cheek step at a time.
It isn’t hardly a secret that I’ve got an eye for public policy, but reading your story, I find myself wondering if there isn’t a missing piece here. The French don’t take short showers and air dry their clothes to win points. They do it because energy is expensive.
There are reasons for that, and they have a lot do to with public policy and with access to natural resources. Do you have ideas about how to address those issues in games?
Thanks for the comment, Amanda. In France, minimizing consumption was often because of the expense – you’re absolutely right. But what we observed was that this idea translated beyond expensive resources to a way of thinking, even among wealthy families [for example, the same small pot roast would be dinner every night until it was finished – food was never wasted]. It translated to a culture of scarcity, where attention to consumption was carried at the forefront of the population’s consciousness as they went about their daily activities.
The social pressure I mentioned was specifically regarding my cofounder and myself analyzing the source of our own behavioral change while living abroad- since most of our living expenses were prepaid (host families), what actually caused us to change our behavior was the social pressure of living within this consumption-conscious society, where our friends and host families were vigilant about their consumption. This is something we felt we could powerfully recreate through a team-based, community-wide competition where each person’s contribution (or lack thereof) affected their team’s outcome in the game.
Anything to help minimize the consumption of us Americans should be a welcomed change. But unfortunately it would take a drastic action for a majority of people to change. In your situation it was the fact that you were living in France and had to make the adjustment, but for most Americans I think they might be able to change for a week, and then slowly slip back into their old ways. So I think that these changes would have to be implemented from politicians and lawmakers in order for people to seriously change the way that they consume and use resources. But I hope I’m wrong!
I completely understand the skepticism, but we sincerely believe that the power of reward/social recognition/competition in our society, if harnessed and embraced in a powerful and ongoing way, could stimulate a similar change in environment. As a silly anecdote, on my college campus I remember we would play a yearly game of Assassins. That game totally changed the way people existed in our small community. One of my hallmates took the hideout approach and didn’t leave his room for a week, but all of us were very cognizant of our surroundings and actions in a way that we never experienced when not in the “game environment”. I believe this type of behavioral change could translate in a similar way through a game like the Beanstockd Game.