Rushlight 2017. Sustainability Solutions Market Panel
I’m Francesco Cara, co-founder with my partner Stefana Broadbent, of Cleanweb Ltd, a company we have incorporated in London 18 months ago to invest in and build green digital services.
Stefana and I were very much involved in the first internet revolution of the second half of the 90’s and part of the formidable social and economical transformation driven by digital innovation. Through Cleanweb Ltd we want to harness the transformative power of digital to accelerate behavioural change towards more sustainable lifestyles.
I’m here today to present to you our first product, the web app “If You Want to”, that you can experience directly on your smartphones at iywto.com.
To set the context of my talk, I choose an image of a beautiful piece of contemporary architecture, the Bosco Verticale by Boeri Studio in Milan (2014), a project that has won multiple international architectural prizes and, apart from being gorgeous, is a model for resource efficiency and environmental impact. It is also the expression of what we are seeing emerging today: an active search for new, sustainable everyday practices that lead to healthier, more affordable and environmentally friendly lifestyles.
In our own research, we have observed the rapid growth of sustainable practices in mobility, trending to carless living; eating, trending to meatless diets; housing, trending to co-living, energy efficiency and renewables; ownership of goods, trending towards a circular economy of repair, reuse, repurpose, recycle; and so on.
At the same time, we are seeing a very rapid innovation in the digital space with new apps, IoT devices, web tools being launched across the world that simplify massively the transition to green living. Think of all the innovation that is happening in the urban food space with kitchens, balconies and rooftops being transformed in vegetable gardens. Or in the bike sharing space with the transition from docking station to docking station bike rides to smart bikes one can leave and pick up anywhere in the city.
In this slide I have selected a few examples of two key transitions: the switch to electric mobility and the switch to renewable energy. In both cases, digital services are available that empower people to explore these new modes of living and take action.
There is a problem however. The demand for green living and the offer of digital green services do not meet. Few people are aware of the wonderful opportunities that these innovations offer. They are presented in specialised reviews, programs and events. They are buried in the back pages of Google results.
To address the issue of visibility, awareness and engagement with green services, we have built “If you want to” where we are creating the largest directory of green services available globally, browsable and searchable through a very simple interface. I will quickly take you through the web app main features.
Since we are based in the UK, our research has primarily focused on services built and available in the UK. But the process being open, we have identified over 1,000 services available in the US, and many hundreds available across Canada, Australia, Europe and South-East Asia.
We were not expecting to find so many services, so the first feedback we got from users was to show only services they could use where they lived. We have immediately introduced geolocalisation so that only services available where one access iywto.com are presented. There is always the possibility to manually change geolocalisation for the curious minds. And initially, we thought that a semantic engine for people who knew what they were looking for and a browsing space for those who wanted to see what was available were enough. Again, feedback proved us wrong. Many users explore the web the Google way, so we added a text based search. People can add to the directory here, we have also developed browser extension for the frequent contributors so that they can contribute a service to the directory with a right click on a service’s page. At the bottom of the page, one can see what’s new: the latest projects added to iywto.com
With this one/two steps navigation, you get to the project page which is a very condensed version of what the project is about, its main features and who’s behind the project. We have embedded videos when they are available. Apps publishers have also asked us to add direct links to the App Store and Google Play, so that you can download the app directly there without having to go through the publishers’ websites. On this page, you can also rate the service and post a comment or a review that will create social proof. Finally, at the bottom of the page, we present services similar to the one being viewed.
Now, where are we? We are promoting iywto.com intensely — we were so excited when the Guardian’s The eco guide to taking action in 2017 featured us — with University green groups and we are here to offer you to add iywto.com to the resources that your organisation uses to promote sustainability or to research what is on the market. iywto.com is free to users, but it relies on their contributions in content. Our operations are instead financed, or I should say, will be financed by the quality leads we take to the services, using an affiliate model.