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ECO-GO! Mobile App and Game

Making reuse packaging and recycling supportive and gamified!

Photo of Liz Pasekal
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We all are contributing to global pollution with our day-to-day habits. The average American creates 4.5 pounds of trash every day. Many landfills are completely full and enormous mountains of waste are floating in our oceans.

There is becoming massive support for new green technologies, and many agree that we can and should urgently expand our reuse and recycling systems. However, despite all the support and fear for the next generation, very few people make helping the environment a priority in their daily habits. Why is it so difficult to motivate people to participate in 'being more green'?

The answer: we live in a reward-based economy, and currently there are very few incentives to encourage making eco-conscious decisions.
The concept of Eco-Go is to reduce waste by challenging and rewarding people to make more eco-conscious choices in their everyday lives. The application would be a collaborative, supportive, gamified experience to allow everyone be part of saving our planet from pollution. 



Incentivizing eco-consciousness could work like this:



Many retailers already promote the reuse of items for carry and containment*. Already if you bring your own mug a variety of cafes, like Starbucks or Peets, you can get 10 cents off. Same goes for grocery bags at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s: bring your own bags, get 5-10 cents off.  It’s a great deal, and many people are now taking these shops up on these offers.  

Eco-Go would collect information about select items that you are reusing and reward you. For example, when you bring your own coffee mug to Starbucks, Eco-Go would log the 10 cent saving you got and give you a point towards earning badges.



The Eco-Go game mechanic would be a feedback loop to get people hooked on eco-consciousness! Like other games, Eco-Go would incentivize behaviors by giving users points that earn them badges and help them rise through the ranks. Badges also unlock more social opportunities, prizes and coupons for participating stores.  Future versions could desginate teams and regional challenges. 

Pokémon GO reference – Each time a reusable item is brought to a shop, you would also unlock a mini-game. Win the mini-game and be rewarded with information about real plants and animals, or with digital creatures that you could use to challenge your friends in other fun games. This way people get to learn more about the natural world they are protecting in fun ways. 

In future versions, there could also be potentials to incorporate more narrative elements and augmented reality features into the game.  


This App is designed for everyone to share and use! Though Eco-Go in some ways builds off the success of Pokémon GO, that same gamer audience is not necessarily the target. Some users of the App may never choose to use this feature. Many users may only be interested in tracking their reuse and recycling habits in a social and supportive way. The Application will have a feature that allows users to opt-out of the gaming element. This way people will not feel pressured by challenges from friends if they do not want to be playing App games.    


Eco-Go would connect you with your eco-conscious friends to provide a fun, supportive network. Leader boards would show who is recycling the most each week. You would be able to see statistics for each of your participating friends and cheer them on. To keep up engagement with the app, friends can challenge each other in the mini-games and trade prizes. Additionally you can see how much plastic you and your friends have saved from ending up in landfills and the ocean.

A social recycling and reuse mobile game could get so many more people excited about OpenIDEO as a community in helping to reduce waste together! 


You could set monthly, weekly or daily reminders to be more eco-conscious, such as morning reminders to bring your reusable coffee mug or shopping bag with you when you leave the house. Other reminders could help users build a habit of recycling e-waste monthly.



Within Eco-Go it will be very easy to access a business’s mobile application. If a business has an App, they are going to want their customers to use it. Eco-Go helps build relationships between businesses and their patrons. 


The challenge in creating an application like this is the on boarding of retailers and the collection of data. There are several solutions to these complications. 

  • Partner with retailers

Currently the application is designed around meaningful partnerships with major retailers. This is the best option! If these companies were willing to see the value an app that helps people not pollute, we could change the world. However, this would mean retailers would have to integrate with Eco-Go’s system to send data on those that brought their reusable containers. This is a very challenging ask, as these companies have many security protocols and few incentives to promote eco-consciousness. However incentives like cutting the costs of supplying containers and showing support for the environment could convince them to participate. As many of these companies already offer savings for customer reuse, it is possible big and small companies alike would show support an application like this.

There are applications which have made these types of partnerships with provider organizations. One case study example would be OhmConnect, which partners with energy and regulatory companies to encourage people to use less electricity during projected peak-load hours. 

  • Install a device

This would be a very costly measure that would involve every retailer having an additional scanning device at their location. When you bring your bag or coffee cup to a location, you could scan a bar-code attached to your reuse item to log the data on this external device. Belly (a coupon-collecting application) does this. An additional challenge with this concept is that people may scan their bar-code even when they did not bring a reuse item. This would could be alleviated by having the cashier validate the customer and initiate the scanning. Additionally, perhaps a partnership could be made with a company like Belly.

  • Honor system

This is not a great option, but could be a way to raise awareness for the cause of a reuse rewards system. This would be like foursquare where people just check in as bringing their own bags and coffee cups to cafes and shops.


There needs to be a way to disrupt modern societies comfort with using disposable, single-use items. Plastics are an essential resources for health, safety and packaging, however in many instances they are still perfectly sanitary after being washed. In our incentives-driven capitalist society, there are such few incentives for eco-consciousness. ECO GO would be an awesome supportive mobile community to get more people on board with recycling and reuse.

Idea Title




Where are you / your team located?

Oakland, CA *My brother, a software engineer can work on the development - he lives in Boston, MA

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

This idea engages people to use their reuse items more! Though my prototype only shows bags and coffee cups, there are many types of reuse packaging that could be included within aspects of the game. Additionally the App could include more gamification for recycling in general.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Like Pokemon Go - this game would be for everyone!

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

To start the game would be targeted toward people in modern cities.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

Partnering with OpenIDEO would aid in the application gaining connections with leading business toward adapting this Eco-continuous application. The program would include rewarding participating business with eco-friendly badges.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

I attended the Circular Design opening workshop with the OpenIDEO Boston chapter and the Circular Design Ideation Jam in Palo Alto! *Special thanks to Andrew Hudson for a great conversation and some copy edits to the document!

Tell us about your work experience

I am a Visual UI/UX Designer and Illustrator working in the technology industry. A fascination with scientific method, sustainability, human diversity, empathy and educational gaming guides my goals.

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Sam Bennett

Great idea here! Creating a social currency and a digital persona for this will play well into getting the idea of being a responsible consumer more widely adopted!

I am a marketing consultant and would love to help with this idea if I can in anyway!

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