Reducing CO2 Emission: There’s an app for that

iPhone

There is a new app in town from eco-rewards company Recyclebank, and it promises to reward users for opting to walk or bike instead of hopping in their car. The process is simple: Every time you walk or bike you will receive 5 Recyclebank points at the end of each journey, which can be used to receive discounts on a variety of products. What’s more, users can receive more points for choosing routes with lower carbon emissions.

Ian Yolles, the company’s chief sustainability officer, explains:

“When it comes to commuting, you commute by force of habit. It’s become such a habit that you get to the end of your journey and you don’t remember getting there.”

But can attaching rewards actually help change a habit? According to previous psychology studies, yes it can! Rewards, according to behaviorist psychology, reinforce behavior, and reinforced behavior is repeated. Recently, Trope and Fishbach (2000) found that subjects were better able to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains even when they had a self-imposed reward in mind.

The Recyclebank app, which is supported by Transport for London, also informs users of how much carbon they avoided, how many calories they burned and how much time they saved. These features–especially the calorie and carbon stats–will likely motivate users to continue walking and biking instead of using their car.

If you’re wondering why such a roundabout process is being used to get people out of their cars, then consider this: In the United States alone there are 250 million cars that use 5,037,000,000 barrels of oil (42 gallons of oil per barrel) a year resulting in 3,441,000,000,000 pounds of carbon dioxide being released into the air. And that’s just the United States data for one year. Worldwide, it is estimated that there will be one billion cars on the road by 2020 consuming a total of 870,000,000,000 gallons per year resulting in 13,764,000,000,000 pounds of CO2 emission.

Simply put, the burning of fuels involved when running a car releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and contributed to climate change. And climate change results in a variety of other problems in our environment including, but not limited to, artic sea ice loss, problems in vegetation, sea level change and animal extinction.

It’s easy to see the staggering statistics and feel that change is impossible, but it is the steps that make the biggest difference. According to BBC, if all commuters in the UK left their cars at home for one day a week for a year, there would be enough gas to travel to the moon and back 35,000 times.

Not using a car doesn’t only help the environment, but also helps human health. Toronto Public Health’s report The Impacts of Traffic on Health pointed out that exposure to pollution is linked to many health problems such as asthma symptoms, reduced lung function, acute bronchitis, hospitalization for respiratory and cardiac problems, cancer and reduced life expectancy.

While the app was created for residents of London, the makers share that it can easily be adapted to be used in any major city. Here’s hoping the app is a success and comes to all major cities worldwide.