A Magazine About Food, Art & Exchange In Midtown Kingston, Published By The Hudson Valley Current.

Currency Corner: Promoting Environmental Goals with Complementary Currencies

In this edition of Currency Corner,” we explore how community currencies can promote sustainability and healthy communities. 

A currency can function as a savings and reward system where credits can be earned when citizens participate in environmentally sustainable activities such as switching to a green energy provider or bringing waste to a local recycling center. Citizens can use this earned currency to pay for certain public services or to receive discounts on environmentally friendly products. 

In Belgium, an electronic savings and reward system (the “e-Portemonnee”) was designed to reduce household waste and support sustainable behavior in 44 municipalities. Municipalities award digital credits to residents for these environmental positive actions, such as composting food waste or reducing water consumption. These credits, accessed through the participants’ national ID cards, can then be spent on sustainable services and products, such as public transport or educational courses.  

In Curitiba, Brazil, a major garbage problem was addressed through the use of a community currency. Many of the inhabitants in this growing city lived in favelas. Traditional garbage pick up was compromised because the streets were not wide enough. Large metallic bins were placed at the edge of the favelas and citizens received a community currency when they placed a full bag of garbage in these bins. The currency was used to pay for bus tokens and in turn, bus tokens were accepted at local markets in exchange for food. Students became involved and exchanged the chits earned for notebooks. In one three-year period, more than 100 schools traded 200 tons of garbage for 1.9 million notebooks.

Closer to home, a digital community currency in Pittsburgh sponsored by involveMINT (see involveMINT.io) provides income to citizen ChangeMakers who agree to work on environmental improvement and food security projects developed by local community stakeholders. ChangeMakers receive 15 CCs (worth $15) for every hour they work on a priority project. They are able to “mint” the currency once they document their work on a specially designed web application with documentation requirements aligned with United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ChangeMakers can then cash in their hours for goods and services at local businesses who then also can use the currency to meet their needs. 

Locally, Hudson Valley Current is working with local environmental organizations to support sustainability goals. Future Fruits, a local organization previously featured in Livelihood, uses permaculture and circular economy strategies to work with local citizens and turn underused landscapes such as street corners, vacant lots, parks, and front yards into usable spaces for the benefit of the greater community. Future Fruits is a recipient of HVC’s Community Resilience Program (CRP) where they are receiving a “Line of Trust” award in Currents to help build organizational capacity. They will use Currents to purchase supplies and materials from local vendors to improve these landscapes while accepting Currents for educational sessions designed to show participants how to enhance these areas. 

As you can see, community currencies have many uses in furthering environmental goals. What ideas do you have to use Currents in this way? Contact the Hudson Valley Current at hello@hudsonvalleycurrent.org. I can also be reached at mbmsling@gmail.com.