In 2015, Colin had the opportunity to meet Dr. Sylvia Earle - world famous oceanographer, ex Chief Scientist of NOAA and winner of the TED Prize. After a discussion of how consumers are unaware of the hidden costs, we agreed that the world could benefit from an application that raised awareness of the environmental footprint of people's purchases. Hao contacted Colin ahead of the event, and they discussed working on this project. Together, they recruited and built this fantastic team!

What it does

TrueCost integrates with e-commerce sites, shows the environmental footprint of products and allows you to offset that impact through a donation to an environmental charity.

How we built it

TrueCost is a browser plugin developed primarily in javascript. We also used json, D3.js, bootstrap, CSS, font-awesome, TamperMonkey, NPM, and Yeoman.

Challenges we ran into

The biggest problem we had was finding data around what materials went in to various products. Another huge challenge was figuring out the cost associated with those materials. Datasets around these subjects are somewhat limited, and the more comprehensive ones are behind expensive paywalls.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are proud of creating an excellent user experience. We believe that users will have to do minimal work to be aware of the environmental impact of their purchases, and to do something meaningful about it! We are raising awareness and providing an avenue of action around eCommerce - an area previously not addressed by many organizations.

We are also very proud of how we worked collaboratively, rapidly and inclusively while maintaining a fun environment.

What we learned

We learned that many datasets are incomplete around environmental impacts of products. We also learned that the estimated monetary value of resource impacts varies extremely widely depending on geography, and other contexts.

What's next for TrueCost

We will work with data providers and brands to try to create a comprehensive data source for many products. We will also continue to develop, launch and market the product.

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