The NuSpaarpas loyalty system for sustainable behaviour was a project that took place in the Netherlands between 2000 and 2002, in which people could collect ‘bonus points’ for activities benefiting the environment: sorting waste, shopping with 100 local shops or by buying environmentally-friendly or Fair Trade products. The project was a partnership between the Rotterdam city government, Rabobank and Qoin (which was called Barataria at that time).
Another project, the Umweltkarte is a rewards system for citizens who want to do the right thing for the environment such as choosing public transport, changing to a green power provider, investing in renewable energies, buying regionally produced food, sorting waste, recycling mobile phones, buying energy saving devices etc. These environmental loyalty points can in turn only be used to purchase environmentally friendly products and services such as car sharing, energy advice or LED lighting. The project won a competition for citizens’ ideas in Hamburg, Germany in 2012 ( Zukunftscamp Hamburg 2030 ). Something similar is already operating in Limburg Province, Belgium: a rewards system called “E-Portmonnee”.
Investment /Innovation vouchers Through investment / innovation vouchers, public bodies can attract investment from companies. Businesses apply for such vouchers, which, depending on the political goals behind issuance, allow for the purchase of research services or capital goods. Thus these vouchers attract business investment wherever public bodies want to promote development.
Carbon Currencies – Emissions trading “Carbon currencies” could serve as a kind of aid for both incentivizing and limiting behavior around carbon emissions. Emissions trading with certificates already exists in Europe. Each certificate represents the right to emit a specified amount of carbon dioxide, which can for example be specified per person. Participants need to possess a certain amount of “carbon assets” in order to purchase goods and services, which makes the use of fossil fuels more expensive and creates incentives to switch to less carbon intensive products. The conscious limitation of available carbon currency units reflects the limited capacity of the atmosphere to absorb carbon and integrates the currency into economic trade. European experiences in this area could be a good starting point for a global carbon currency system (see wikipedia: EU Emissions Trading Scheme and Energy Currencies).
Educational currencies are built on the idea that people learn most when they teach others. An educational currency can help school children to ‘buy’ help with schoolwork from older children. Older students can then buy a place at a university, at which point the currency units return to the issuer at the educational ministry. A sophisticated though yet to be realized version of this is the Saber for Brazil.
Reputation currencies If one considers currencies not only as ‘monetary units the possessors can exchange’ but widens their definition as ‘symbol systems’, then other currencies become imaginable. For example, in science one often talks of citations as the ‘currency of science’. Scientific work that is often referenced is seen as valuable and its author gains reputation and recognition. Citations in scientific papers cannot be ‘exchanged’ as one exchanges monetary units but they demonstrate how important a particular piece of scientific work is for a scientific field.
At the end of the 1990s, Georg Franck defined another type of currency: the ‘currency’ of attention and its associated ‘economy’ of attention. People pay with their “personal time” he wrote in Telepolis magazine (in German) (20 March 1996), by which he means for example the attention a newspaper can command from its readers. This broader definition of currencies can also extend our understanding of ‘economy’. The value of something can be much higher than its pure market value, in other words the sum of money one receives for selling a product.
Arthur Brock’s Prezi “Transitioning to the New Economy” reminds us for example that honey is not only worth the price one receives from its sale. Honey is the small end product of the bees’ pollination service and without this there would be no fruit and hardly any vegetables because the collection of nectar leads to much greater effects that simply cannot be measured by money.
(This article will be further expanded! Subscribe to our Newsletter to keep informed of new contributions.)