BigApps for the Big Apple

Global Green Advises on “Green” Mobile Apps for NYC Competition Can mobile apps reduce food waste? Maybe

Can mobile apps reduce food waste? Maybe! Matt de la Houssaye, from Global Green’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR), advised on the development of mobile apps that would reduce food waste in the New York City’s BigApps Competition. It is the fourth annual contest from the New York City Economic Development Corp. for software developers and members of the public to create web or mobile applications using City data to solve big issues that affect New Yorkers. Matt advised on the development of apps designed to help the over 100 restaurants participating in New York City's Food Waste Challenge measure and track their food waste, as well as the broader “Cleanweb: Energy, Environment, and Resilience” category

“It is great to be working with experts in mobile technology and software,” said Matt, an expert advisor in the competition. “We’re one of the subject matter experts advising on the competition. This helps provide the connection from the virtual world to the real world.”

In the commercial food waste challenge, announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg April 25, more than 100 New York City restaurants have pledged to reduce the food waste they send to landfills by 50% through composting and other waste prevention strategies. Matt advised the MintScraps app, which calculates the financial benefits of reducing food waste, and another app called WasteCheck that provides improvements in the ease of data collection. WasteCheck facilitates this goal through an online log that allows restaurants to enter their daily records for food waste by specifying type and quantity of waste, and to then view graphs indicating waste trends.

“Our app makes it very easy to record and track data – in this case your waste stream – whether it’s measured in bags, pounds, or cubic yards,” said Mike Brown, who is one of the developers of the app. “The use of a mobile app eliminates the extra step of having to remember or record data back at the office. Moving forward, we’d like to add the ability to attach pictures along with your data.”

Within the broader “Cleanweb: Energy, Environment, and Resilience” category, Matt advised the teams developing the Biketrain and Sparkrelief apps. Biketrain would connect bicyclists to each other and allow them to create and join bike trains. Sparkrelief aims to notify people of environmental disasters anywhere in the world and connect them to disaster relief centers. He familiarized the team with Global Green’s Solar for Sandy project, which aims to install solar-powered systems in community centers in areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Global Green’s first Solar for Sandy partnership was with the Rockaway Beach Surf Club in Far Rockaway, New York.

Teams were solving marketplace inefficiencies, improving resource-related data collection, and even using sensors to make web connected hardware,” said Sameer Rashid, a founding team member of the Cleanweb Initiative, an organization that aims to spread the use of information technology to address resource challenges, such as sustainability, and a partner at Pure Energy Partners. Both were organizers of the Big Apps Competition.

Matt explained some advantages of apps, which he called “the ultimate data collectors,” in implementing medium and large scale projects, such as ones relating to engaging in composting and solar energy. He said they help engage the critical number of participants needed, provide an easier way to collect data, can connect the user to larger web applications, and create greater transparency.

“Apps and web-based interfaces can take large amounts of data and provide them on one’s cell phone,” he said. “Does the restaurant I’m eating at compost their food waste? Is the food local? With the right data sets and the right user interface, large sets of information can be just one click away.”

CoRR is showcasing the best apps on composting and recycling at its monthly teleconferences. WasteCheck has won a cash prize sponsored Action Carter Environmental Services, a CoRR member organization, as the best food waste app in the competition. The winning app of the“Cleanweb: Energy, Environment, and Resilience” was Solarlist, an app that provides students and young entrepreneurs with a tool to inform homeowners about their options for using solar power. The homeowners are then subsequently referred to a network of solar installers.

“We believe the Cleanweb will create better value and choices for consumers and businesses that also happen to be cleaner,” said Sameer Rashid. “We’re very pleased that the New York City Economic Development Corporation and excellent partners like Global Green are working to realize this potential.”