E-Portemonnee: interview with Leen Frensen, Sustainability Officer, Diepenbeek, Belgium

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The e-Portemonnee is an electronic reward system, giving people points in exchange for environmentally friendly behaviour which can then be spent on a range of sustainable products and service. To read more about the e-Portemonnee, click here. Leen Frensen, Sustainability Officer for Diepenbeek, talks about how the currency has incentivised environmentally sustainable behaviour:

Solar panels have always been popular in Diepenbeek. The municipality used to offer subsidies to encourage more people to install them, but the policy ended up being a victim of its own success and, after a while, was not sustainable. So we started looking for other ways to incentivise environmentally friendly behaviour. That’s why we launched the e-Portemonnee.

“the e-Portemonnee is having a real effect on people’s behaviour, rather than just a one-off or short-term impact”

In the summer of 2010, we began preparations. Talks were held with government environmental agencies and we consulted other municipalities to see if we could learn from their experiences. In late December, we announced the e-Portemonnee and it began operation on January 1, 2011.

The system gives recognition to, and encourages, a range of environmentally friendly beviour: home composting, reducing water consumption, switching to green energy providers. People earn points, or “credits”, through such actions. These can then be spent in a number of ways, including on green products such as energy-saving power strips and shower heads, compost bins – anything that makes it easier for people to act in a sustainable way.

There are people who are now really active in searching out opportunities to earn and spend. And that’s great, because it means that the e-Portemonnee is having a real effect on people’s behaviour, rather than just a one-off or short-term impact.

My first piece of advice to anyone wanting to set up something similar would be to develop an effective communications strategy. You can’t just create a website and wait for people to visit it – you have to be pro-active. It’s a slow process,  but eventually word gets round and a dynamic develops whereby more and more people are “converted” to your cause.

The e-Portemonnee has been a really valuable tool in encouraging people to adopt more environmentally friendly lifestyles.

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