Brighter Planet Rolls Out Social Web App to Lower Carbon Footprints

5/7/09

Most of us want to help curb global warming, but the tricky part can be how to do our part without splurging on a shiny new Prius or some other expensive measure. Vermont’s Brighter Planet has spent the last few years building a business around providing products and services that help people and businesses cut down on their carbon emissions without breaking the bank. The startup is now close to launching a social Web application aimed at those of us who want to take steps to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we’re responsible for emitting into the atmosphere.

I got an early look at the new app while visiting the home office of Brighter Planet in Middlebury, VT (an idyllic New England town that is home to Middlebury College and, less prominently, yours truly during weeks while I’m not working in the Boston area.) Patti Prairie, the company’s CEO, tells me that her technical team led by chief technology officer Adam Rubin has been working late nights in order to introduce a closed beta version of the app sometime next week. After the firm gets feedback from initial users, Rubin says, a public version will likely be launched in the next three or four weeks.

Brighter Planet is known mostly for its green credit and check cards issued by Bank of America. The Brighter Planet Visa cards enable consumers to apply the points they accumulate through everyday use of their cards toward the purchase of carbon offsets that fund renewable energy projects. The new Web app could vastly expand Brighter Planet’s business, which generates revenue by acquiring carbon offsets at wholesale prices and selling the offsets to consumers and businesses at a retail rate, Prairie says. The Web app could encourage more people to conserve, buy the firm’s carbon offsets, and drive up the number of people who use its credit and check cards. There are now tens of thousands of Brighter Planet cardholders.

“One of the things that we had talked about is that our goal is to make everyone an environmentalist,” Prairie says. “We already have 100,000 customers that have done something about their carbon footprint through our products and services, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility through this [new Web] capability to reach millions of Americans.”

From what I can tell through a little test-driving, Brighter Planet’s Web app enables people to calculate their annual carbon emissions and measure their progress to reduce that footprint more thoroughly than other apps and carbon-footprint calculators online. That level of customization may set the firm’s app apart from what’s offered on green social networking sites such as Carbonrally.com, Edenbee.com, and others that are cultivating online communities and motivating them to live green.

With Brighter Planet’s new Web app, users can … Next Page »

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