Inspiration

Our inspiration for this project came in two parts. Firstly, we care strongly about the environment and the pressures it faces and strive to a create a more sustainable future. The fashion and textiles industry is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. It also has some of the lowest working conditions and workers rights of any sector. Clearly, this makes it one of the key areas to focus on in the fight for sustainability.

Secondly, we have been very aware of the impact of the pandemic on small businesses. While many large businesses have sustainability pledges and are feature in national rankings, smaller businesses find it harder to find the resources and time to match large corporations' investments. This tool will make it easier for small businesses to assess their sustainability and will also provide a platform for them to reach consumers. Advertising is fundamental to small businesses' success, and especially in uncertain times with lower footfall.

What it does

This project is a tool that allows both consumers and small business providers to assess the environmental and ethical impact of the items they are buying and selling. Consumers can use the 'consumer form' to check out the rating of products they find out and about. All that's needed is the cost, weight, material and source - which can all easily be found on the label. A score and green, amber, or red rating are returned on form completion.

Businesses can sign in to add and view their products. They can also choose to opt in to a registry of small businesses which is displayed alongside a localized embedded map for customers to explore their local businesses nearby. This is a great source of advertisement for independent business owners.

A further extension to our work covers financial and environmental analytics - this can be used by registered businesses to assess their performance, commercially and sustainably. This can also help them target more environmentally conscious products.

How we built it

We first built a web-based app using Google Cloud, developing and deploying Python 3 web services. We created an algorithm to score a particular combination of product and country of origin according to its sustainability, based on both environmental and ethical factors. The environmental impact was measured according to three parameters (weight, distance, and material) and the ethical impact according to four (minimum wage, proportion in work, child labour, and corruption index).

Challenges

It was a short and intense period of hacking - sometimes we had to compromise on plans to achieve our targets. For example, we aimed to embed a map using the Maps JavaScript API with the locations of registered businesses for consumers to explore; unfortunately within the time we had to settle for an embedded local map and list of registered businesses and their addresses. We also would have liked to push further at our development of financial and environmental analytics, which we believe could be of great use to small businesses.

What's next for Shop Green...

As well as focussing on the clothes and textiles industry, we hope to expand to other products where eco-friendly considerations are also of crucial importance - for example, food and drink. We also plan to expand our reach through social media, and to correspondingly increase the size of our database to better help customers and sellers make informed and ethical choices.

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