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Gaming Environmentalism

Recyclebank says its members eat up online gaming, but less than 60 percent of the players said it makes them greener.

The past April, Recyclebank—a company that encourages recycling by rewarding members with coupons and other special offers based on the frequency at which they recycle—launched a new gaming platform. This effort, called the Green Your Home Challenge, enticed users to play along with the month-long online game by offering a chance to win a kitchen make-over (valued at $18,000) as well as coupons from its network of more than 3,000 consumer products companies, such as Ziploc, Pampers and Coca-Cola.

Photo by by Bruce Clay, IncNearly 49,000 people tried out the Green Your Home Challenge online game

Recyclebank its gaming partners, consumer insights agency ROI Research and Google Inc., analyzed participation in the game. Nearly 49,000 of its members (or 1 in 10 unique visitors to the site throughout April) played the game and the analysis was done through surveys, administered before and after the game period, as well as through site data from Google Analytics.

The full report was released today. Among the top findings: the game taught 97 percent of players new ways they can act in environmentally-friendly ways, but only 58 percent, at most, of participants said they’d likely take greener actions as a result of playing the game.

So is that 58 percent an impressive or a poor result? Recyclebank’s pleased with the findings, and is keen on continuing this strategy of “gamification” to try to get its members to take more of what they learn in the online world and transfer it to the real world. “We think we’ve hit an interesting nerve here,” says Javier Flaim, senior vice president of global marketing at Recyclebank.
“We moved the needle on the number of minutes our members stayed on the site, the number of page views--all metrics went through the roof.”

And because Recyclebank’s site is the main tool for imparting its environmental messages, that’s important. But what is as exciting for Recyclebank is the network effect the game had. Players earned extra points if they referred a friend to join Recyclebank, and even more points based on the amount of points their referred friends earned for playing the game. In fact, during the game Recyclebank saw an increase in referrals of 820 percent.

That’s great for Recyclebank and the thousands of consumer brands that are using its site to attract consumers.

So, again, 58 percent of players said, yeah, sure I’ll be greener now. Is that a good result? I think it’s a fair showing. It’s not excellent, and it’s not a very probing question (a better one might have asked for specific actions that players have already done, rather than asking if they merely plan to be greener). But given that most players are what Flaim referrs “women, with children, 25 to 45 years old, who own the household budget” and tend to live in the suburbs, it’s encouraging that more than half the survey respondents said they’ll take greener actions. Plus, as he notes, there could be some synergies between these moms and their new-found environmental awareness and their kids, who are likely learning about environmental issues in school.

The bigger question is this: Will these greener actions counteract the environmental impact of all the Ziploc bags, Pampers and various other non-recyclable products that players, armed with coupons earned from the game, go out and buy?

Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mary Catherine O’Connor is a seasoned freelance writer who covers topics ranging from adventure sports to clean technology. Her recent work appears in Fast Company, Wired.com, The Bold Italic, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech, WorldChanging, Women's Adventure magazine, Greener World Media and Triple Pundit.

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