Nori Yoshida and his cousin Kenji Ishida "got together over winter break and instead of sitting around and being a bum, like we usually do, we thought we’d do something useful with our lives. That's how we came up w/ OneSquareFoot.org."
It is very simple- visitors come and play a basic trivia game; they run ads across the bottom. Any ad revenue is used to buy rainforest land through the World Land Trust-US Ecuador, Paraguay and Brazil. They were inspired by Free Rice (TreeHugger here).
There is a cool stat feature that shows how much land has been bought so far, superimposed on Central Park or your choice of other sites. It is also open source- participants can submit their own quiz questions which are added to the library. (which is needed, I got the same question coming up a few times) If you are a nerd you can just play tech questions; if you are a TreeHugger you can play green, or you can try them all. ::One Square Foot.Org
We asked Nori a few questions:
Treehugger: How did this start?
NORI: This whole thing started out as a winter project for my cousin and I. I had a few weeks of vacation time and my cousin was coming back home from college (bio/premed) and was interested in learning how to program. Instead of spending two weeks lounging around eating and sleeping (which i think is a perfectly good use of time, personally) we decided to try to take on a project and put up a website. Worst case, I could teach him the basics of web programming and I wanted to brush up on my own skills since I hadn't programmed in a while.
So we holed up in his dining room and put together this site. I'd come by around noon and we'd go till 10PM or sometimes 3AM. When we got too tired we stopped to go get milkshakes, or play Gears of War on the XBox. Overall our goal was just to get something out there before we had to resume school/work. Anything else was a plus so we've been surprised by people writing us to submit questions, submit corrections and generally just giving us great feedback about the site.
How does it work?
We are buying rainforest through the land bank . They buy land in Ecuador, Paraguay and Brazil. Since they are the land experts, we plan to leave that to them, and we'll focus on trying to make a fun and engaging site.
We'll make donations w/ the money everyone has helped raise through answering and submitting trivia questions.
Since we just started and the per acre cost is $100, we have a ways to go before we can make our first purchase, but we've gotten great responses from everyone we've shown it to so far, and we will make all purchase records public so everyone can see.
TH: Do you guys have a background in computers?
NORI: I had started a site called CrispyNews which was acquired by Salesforce.com in early 2007. This is the technology behind dell's ideastorm. and salesforce's ideaexchange. The product is now relaunched as Salesforce Ideas and I am currently the product manager for it. Probably for very good reason, (we have very talented engineers on our team) they no longer let me touch the code.
My cousin is Kenji Ishida, he is 22. He graduated Peabody last year w/ a degree in music (violin), but is now working towards a bio/chem degree at Case Western University. Four weeks into leaning how to program, he is now more anal about code cleanliness than I am. We both grew up together in St. Louis, Missouri.