The inspiration for our application was a lesson in our AP World History class which discussed today’s phenomenon of mass consumerism and how consumer demand influences the decisions that companies make. We started thinking, “if companies want to appear appealing to their customers, would shifting the thought process of consumers in terms of how they decide what products to buy be enough encouragement for large corporations to change their policies and practices to be more environmentally-friendly?”

What it does

Our app provides consumers with a tool to determine the level of eco-consciousness (or eco-ignorance) shown by businesses that they frequently purchase products or services from. It will increase demand for the companies that support and employ green environmental practices both in how they manufacture their products and also how environmentally-friendly the products are themselves.

How we built it

We started by brainstorming various options for apps that would have the greatest impact on the environment and then we realized that influencing the massive consumerist culture present in the world today would be the best way to do that (by shifting consumers to supporting eco-friendly businesses, many major corporations would be encouraged to shift their own practices so as to not lose their customers to more environmentally-friendly companies). We then began sketching out the various pages and screens that a user would go while using our app, as well as creating the user flowchart (the various pathways and actions that a user could take/make while using the app). We then coded the login and registration systems and set up our firebase database. After this, we split up and half the team focused on creating and further setting up the database system and inputting the prototype data as well as the data callback methods in the code while the other half of the team did the UI and basic functions of the "brands" screen and the "products" screen. We then inserted the data-calling functions and input any other necessary linking code to make the whole UI flow smoothly. Finally, we added features that would make the user experience more enjoyable, such as various colors, a tutorial for first-time-users, among other things.

Challenges we ran into

We definitely struggled with figuring how to properly organize the data stored in our Firebase database, because Firebase by default stores data in an alphabetical order, but our app called for data to be provided in numerical order (high to low). Our solution was to add alphabetical “tags” at the beginning of each entry in the database to make them appear in both alphabetical and numerical order, and then we employed a method to remove the tag before the entry was presented to the user.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Making the data recall procedure to organize the results in order from most beneficial to the environment to the worst was something that we worked a lot on to make sure that everything was working as it should. In fact, the whole organization system for presenting the user with the information in the database took around 70% of the total amount of time we spent on this (so around 18 to 20 hours), and we really like the way it turned out.

What we learned

We definitely learned how to stay focused for long periods of time and how to deal with frustrating problems that cause everything to fail but have no obvious cause. We also learned expanded our knowledge of how to use Firebase and how to call data from databases. Finally, we learned how cool the people at hackathons are, and we learned of an event that we will definitely be attending next year: EarthxHack!

What's next for GreenBrands

We have a Phase II or an expansion plan for what we want to do next with GreenBrands. We aim to have peer-reviewed research and experts as our sources of data (rather than the prototype/example data that we researched and came up with ourselves. We will implement this by using a login system that allows approved and well-credited researchers and experts to add information about new businesses as well as refine and/or edit already-existent products or businesses. We plan to use a variety of experts as well as check their credentials thoroughly to prevent inaccurate or biased information We also want to create a social network aspect to the project that has the ability to have users post suggestions/alternatives to popular products using keyphrases or keywords. For example, in Phase I (our current app, which is our prototype and proof of concept), if a user were to search up “disposable plastic water bottles”, they would be presented with a list of the most environmentally friendly options. However, in Phase II, this user would be provided with the same results as well as a user-submitted alternative (that came up when the keyword “water bottles” got searched) that could be, for instance, reusable plastic or metal water bottles that further reduce the need for even purchasing the disposable bottles in the first place.

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