It's called Causeworld and here's how it works: download the app for your iPhone or Android device, walk into a store and "check in" on your phone (geotagging helps determine where you're at), as you earn Karmas you spend them on causes like carbon offsets and tree planting. You don't actually have to buy anything, just divulge that you've set foot in that particular department store, grocery, hardware store, Abercrombie, etc. Corporate sponsors pony up the dough, you just decide how it's divvied up.You thought it was just a way to tell your buddy "WTF!," but the smartphone has become a tool for bonafide world-changing, and the iTunes App Store is a veritable shopping mall of experiments in mobile do-gooding. Causeworld joins such apps as GoodGuide and a horde of others that let you rat out polluters, simplify recycling, plant trees, track bike commuters, be a greener driver (which I wrote about over at MSN Autos) and whole lot more (see Jaymie's roundup).
As for Causeworld, the Karmas you earn from checking in at the stores you visit can be spent on a growing list of causes: for one karma, Carbonfund.org will offset two pounds of carbon, for 30 points, CHF will ensure clean water to a person in Sudan for a month, and for 100 points, American Forests' Global ReLeaf program will plant a tree in a rainforest. Your shopping and donating activity will also earn you badges that can be flaunted on your Facebook page.
Citi and Kraft are the first two corporate sponsors to step forward, donating a combined $500,000 for the initial launch, according to Michael Arrington at TechCrunch. Seeing as Shopkick--the Silicon Valley startup behind Causeworld--is being backed up by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, there's a good chance this one will be around for a while, perhaps warranting a square on your iPhone's screen.