A few years ago, Julien Fruchier reached out to me about a new venture he had just started. He was just starting an effort to connect people with good, green, socially oriented businesses and activities in Vancouver, with a plan to eventually expand to many other cities. Unlike many such services, people don't get discounts and special offers from partner companies through participation in the program. Rather, they help the world in various ways and support progressive local businesses.
Julien and some tech-savvy partners have done quite well with this effort, working with 300 companies and signing up 20,000 customers. Now, they are developing a new app that takes the idea a bit further, and they are expanding to San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland. If you want to support these efforts, you can pledge some cash via the Kickstarter link above.
With the new app, when you eat or shop at a participating restaurant or shop, you also fund the planting of a tree in Ethiopia. (I imagine this is something TreeHuggers would like to do.) The app also lets you see how your tree-planting progress compares to that of others using the app. You can compete with friends and family, and instead of doing so via mindless consumerism or some pointless game, you are doing so by also supporting good local businesses!
Participating businesses must meet at least 3 of 4 sustainability criteria "so people get to discover businesses doing extraordinary things, not just the usual businesses focused on making a profit," as Julien says.
The "Extraordinary app" is connected to other charities as well, such as Charity:Water; Sole Food, which transforms vacant urban land into street farms and also teaches people living in poverty how to grow their own food; Habitat for Humanity; and 1% for the Planet.
One thing Julien noted to me on Friday was that this is not another "daily deal" app (which is what some people initially consume). "Daily deal sites have been extremely destructive to many businesses and we go to great lengths to disassociate ourselves from that model," Julien said.
If you're interested in becoming a partner business in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, or Portland, you can apply here. Of course, this can help you pull in more customers, people "who want to vote with their wallets for a better way of doing business," as Julien put it.