Carrotmobs inspire buying for the environment

Living on Earth

Sign for a Carrotmob (Image by Charleston's TheDigitel (cc:by))

This story was originally covered by PRI's Living on Earth. For more, listen to the audio above.

Some businesses will do anything for money, and that includes wreaking havoc on the environment. Brent Schulkin, founder of Carrotmob, wants to use that tendency to pressure companies to go green. Forget sticks and protests, Schulkin wants to reward responsible businesses with a mob of buying.

Carrotmobs started when Schulkin went to 23 of his local San Francisco convenience stores. He told every one of them, "what I'm going to do is I'm going to bring hundreds of people to one store on one day and we're just going to spend a ton of money." One store agreed to devote 22 percent of the proceeds to the environment. Schulkin convinced a bunch of people to show up and start buying. He says the group brought in about $9,200 for the store in just a few hours, and the business used the money for a full lighting retrofit of their store to be more energy efficient.

Since then, the group has spread around the world. Schulkin says "we've seen organizers in Helsinki who've organized a mob of a nightclub, Bubble Tea stand in Singapore, in Thailand we've seen a school that banned plastic bags at a grocery store, and all across the U.S. The biggest countries are actually Germany and Finland. They are just nuts for Carrotmob."

Eventually, Schulkin wants the Carrotmobs to be big enough to influence huge multinational companies like Coke or Pepsi, Nike or Reebok. He says, "I'm not going to be satisfied with a million people, I want, you know, five, ten, twenty, fifty million people."

"I think there's such a broad appeal to this movement," Schulkin says, "it's so easy to get involved that I hope that we can have everyone join the network and we can grow the network to the point where those things are possible."

Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth."