Green social media contests hosted by David Suzuki and Future Shop

Future Shop and the David Suzuki Foundation are joining forces in an environmental campaign that will showcase a new social network designed to influence positive behaviour change in its members.

Two contests hinging around Earth Day, April 22, will call on Canadians to cut their carbon emissions and do other “green” acts to improve their environment.

In addition to the altruistic motive — saving the planet from global warming, participants are also being incented by a chance to win gift cards and gadgets from Future Shop, the Burnaby, B.C.-based electronics retailer.

The David Suzuki foundation plans to launch an online competition April 19 targeted at employee habits in the workplace. The Amazing Workplace Race will use a social media-style software product hosted by Vancouver-based Good Energy Research Inc. The Web-based engagement tool was used by Vancity Credit Union to reduce emissions in 2007, and the Suzuki project will be a solid boost to the company according to founder Jeremy Osborn.

“We’re pretty new, and this is our second campaign and definitely the most high profile,” he says. “We get some serious traffic from it.”

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Good Energy offers to customize its social engagement software for companies interested in running habit-changing campaigns whether its among employees or the wider public, he adds. “It seamlessly integrates into any Internet or Intranet portal.”

Like Facebook, but with a clear purpose behind the network, the software allows users to “Share Ideas” in a news stream that can be pushed out to Twitter and Facebook. There are options to create “causes” or groups focused on specific acts. Users also can upload a picture and share basic biographical information in a public profile.

The main feature of the site is a series of customized questions that the user answers. Those answers are then user compared to other users’ answers, and the comparison charted and graphed.

That sort of “peer pressure” can be a big motivator for people to change their habits to better the environment, says Randi Kruse, manager of community building at the David Suzuki Foundation.

“A really important motivator for changing behaviour is reinforcement and feedback,” she says. “This tool will allow that to happen.”

 

The competition will track a user’s behaviour over five weeks in 10 key areas, she adds. They include transportation choices (whether someone drives or takes public transit to work) and waste reduction (diverting to recycling or compost instead of the garbage).

The site will encourage users to share success stories, ask questions when met with challenges and post comments. A tips section will provide information about how to achieve a better score. The player who scores the highest score each week will win a prize from Future Shop, as will an overall winner at the end of the contest.

“People are often surprised how easy it can be to reduce energy and what that means for cost savings,” says Cheryl Grant, community relations manager for Future Shop.

Future Shop will also be running a green-themed contest for the partnership. A “Be Green and Win!” page invites Web surfers to submit their green acts for a shot at winning a $1000 Future Shop gift card until April 22. Future Shop also plans to donate $40,000 to the David Suzuki Foundation.

Good Energy’s Web-based application has similarities to Toronto-based Zerofootprint Inc.’s software that has also been used by organizations to conduct environmentally-friendly contests with social media tools. But Good Energy is different, Osborn says.

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“They are focused on greenhouse gas management, while we could focus on any type of change,” he says. “We could even help with weight loss programs.”

Good Energy’s Web-based software is built in Python, the founder adds. It uses basic Web languages such as javascript, HTML and CSS to work.

Workers looking to get an edge on the competition can tap educational tools provided by the contest hosts. The David Suzuki foundation has a Flash-based interactive e-learning module featuring an animated version of Suzuki, narrated by the real Suzuki. Future Shop is providing information in the green section of its Future Generation mini-site.

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