A new app created by a professor at the University of Memphis is meant to encourage green living activities on the campus and beyond.

Green Fee, developed by Susan Elswick, a professor in the social work department at the U of M, is a game-based app that allows users to track their green-living efforts, as well as green-living issues they encounter.

In creating the app, Elswick, who is also a master gardener in the region, said she “nailed her love for horticulture, technology, and social behavior sciences together. Green living is a behavior that we can easily see and track.”

Elswick said the app is similar to Waze, an app drivers can use to track road conditions and incidents to give other drivers on the road a heads-up. With the green-living app, users can identify and geotag a green-living issue or problem they see, such as trash on the ground. Elswick said they can “take it a step further” by taking action to address the issue and then tagging that activity.

Examples of green-living activities could include carpooling, walking, or biking to campus, picking up trash, or turning the lights off when leaving home. Green activities can also include reducing blight, pulling weeds, or working in a community garden.

A big, green issue in Memphis is abandoned tires that litter the city, Elswick said. “Tires are a huge problem so someone could even see some tires on the side of the road and decide to pick them up and repurpose them. It’s that easy.”

“To be able to visually see our impact on a map is huge,” Elswick said.click to tweet

Each time users identify an issue, they get one point. For addressing the issue or doing their own green activity, users get two points.

The points aren’t tied to an external reward outside of the game, but Elswick said that could be a possibility in the future.

Elswick hopes the app will raise awareness about and get more students involved in green-living practices. She also said the app will help show the university’s green footprint in the community.

“To be able to visually see our impact on a map is huge,” Elswick said. “We know our outreach on campus is pretty good, but there’s a lot of students who participate in green living that live in the community and we want to highlight those practices.”

The app is slated to launch in the Android and Apple app stores in two weeks, Elswick said. It will be free to all university students, faculty, and staff.

Elswick said she anticipates the app being widely used on campus, as she says all of the university’s green programming is “pretty well-received.”

“We have two community gardens on campus, we have pop-up gardens, and a lot of students across all departments who are engaged in green programming and research,” Elswick said. “I’m confident the app will get support on campus”

Eventually, Elswick said the app will be available to community partners and businesses who want to track their philanthropic efforts and outreach in the city related to green living.

“For example, if a local company goes out and cleans a flower bed, they can geo-locate that,” Elswick said. “That would then show up on a map with their brand on it.”


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