BitcoinDood: Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to this interview. Could you please tell the readers a little about who you are and your relationship to the ECO coin project?
Lewis Just: My name is Lewis Just and I am the project leader of the ECO coin, which is an initiative of Next Nature. We are a think and design organization based in Amsterdam that stems from a need to explore how technology and nature come together to create our future environment, our Next Nature.
BD: ECO coin will be a bit different than other cryptocurrencies out there. From what I understand, its main purpose is to help as an incentive based token, to reward individuals for acts of eco freindly actions. The PDF you sent me uses the phrase, “To economically reward environmental action”. Can you expound on this a little more and tell us how a cryptocurrency can be utilized for this purpose?
LJ: Absolutely. When we look at our current economic system is seems that we often reward actions that our terrible for our ecology in order to gain profits, grow business and help a debt-based economy survive. And yet we do very little to truly understand or protect the value of our shared ecology. It seems strange that businesses can make money from cutting down the forest and turning it into a raw material, but citizens are not paid to plant the forest.
Although there are some initiatives (ecosystem services, carbon trading etc.) that try and combat this growing issue they are often top down solutions that rely on bureaucracy and are there to limit the damages done. The ECO coin by contrast is a currency that positively rewards citizens who are actively contributing to a more sustainable world. It is a bottom up approach that we are designing to help catalyze our economy and society to transition to a more ecological one.
We believe that by utilizing blockchain technologies we can make the ECO coin a project that is not owned by one but many. Having the ECO coin as a cryptocurrency also means that the way in which it is created does not need to be the same as the way in which fiat money is created, through the creation of debt. Carrying out sustainably good actions can create it.
BD: You’re planning on partnering with some pretty big names with the likes of Deloitte and Bitonic. Can you talk a little about these organizations and how they will help the advancement of ECO coin?
LJ: Yes, the ECO coin has been an idea of Next Nature for some time now but it is only fairly recently that we have really been transforming the project from a theoretical idea into a practical solution. To do this we feel it’s best to collaborate and find partnerships that fit and we have been fortunate to find these with Deloitte and Bitonic. Both organizations have fantastic people with really hands on knowledge of blockchain technologies and implementation expertise. They will help us to run community experiments to see the strengths and weaknesses of the currency so that we can develop it into the strongest possible form it can be. At Next Nature we really believe that no single party should own the system but that we should all help to bring it to life.
BD: Your white paper states that the coin will be promoted and used at music festivals. This seems like an absolutely brilliant idea and great way to introduce a lot of new people to the use of cryptocurrency. I’ve helped promote rave parties back in the mid 90’s and giving 10,000 plus people instructions on anything can be a bit daunting. What is your vision for this idea and how would it be executed?
LJ: The great thing about music festivals is that they come with amazing communities and the space provides a great context as it has everything you might find in a city (water and energy infrastructure, food and marketplaces, housing etc). The key to making the ECO coin a success at a music festival is to design the system so that festival goers can learn as they go. So the ECO coin will be integrated into RFID wristband tickets meaning everyone already has their ECO coin wallets. Then people can earn and spend throughout the festival when they like. Say you use a digital ticket instead of a paper ticket to enter the festival ground, then you can immediately earn an ECO coin. Attend a lecture or workshop about sustainability and you can earn more ECO coins. Help to keep the festival tidy of plastic cups, earn even more. You can then spend your ECO coins onsite on meat-free food, exclusive digital downloads or if you earn enough ECO coins you can become a V.E.P. Much like a V.I.P but you will reach Very Ecological Person status and gain access to areas of the festival that others can’t. It’s definitely going to be a challenge to execute but we have a great festival onboard (we will be announcing who in the next few weeks so keep following our progress at nextnature.net) so we are optimistic we can make it a success.
BD: One of your plans will be to have approved businesses, festivals, and projects, to earn and use ECO coin. The white paper I read discourages trading to fiat or to other currencies. I’m trying to wrap my head around how this will work. If businesses are accepting ECO coin for goods and services won’t they eventually want to cash out for some other form of fiat or cryptocurrency? I’m imagining some guy renting bicycles at the beach and accepting ECO coin. Once he accrues a good amount of ECO’s he’s going to want to cash those out. How will business owners go about this and will this coin be listed on any of the altcoin exchanges?
LJ: Yes, although we cannot stop people from buying and selling the ECO coin we would always promote that you earn them through environmentally good actions. We want to avoid businesses “cashing out” by making sure that internal trading can happen from the other ECO coin businesses. So if the bicycle repairman has many ECO coins he can spend them on employing an urban miner to go and salvage old bike parts. The miner can then spend the ECO coins on locally grown fruit and vegetables and so forth. This idea is borrowed from the Wir Bank, which has a very successful track record of strengthening business ties whilst lowering the amount of cash liquidity a business needs. This is just one idea but we are also looking at other currencies and ways in which you might be able to invest your ECO coins in new green businesses. We also hope that becoming an ECO coin business will carry some reputational value with it. So like B Corporations, the ECO coin stamp will be a marker of a sustainable business or organization.
BD: From what I’m gathering you currently have a proof of concept and the ECO coin itself is not available yet. When can we expect to see an actual working blockchain and completed project? Please feel free to talk about any road map plans as well.
LJ: That’s correct. We are not yet on a blockchain but are, with our partners, exploring the best way to achieve this. There are many ways we can realize the ECO coin on a blockchain but we also want to use the technology when it’s appropriate. Many projects use blockchain technology too early without establishing a great community to use their coin. So our road map for the ECO coin is first focused on testing the currency within a local community (a music festival). Once we understand how to make it efficient and easy to use then we will look to spread the currency to other communities to create an international network of ECO coin users. This will go hand in hand with implementing the coin on a blockchain so that it will become a global cryptocurrency for anyone, anywhere to use.
BD: On the last page of your white paper it talks about the benefits of using the blockchain for the ECO coin token. The paper explains the benefits of blockchain voting, and making it more decentralized and democratic. Are you planning something like what the DASH community is currently doing with voting for projects and the distribution of budget funds? http://dashvotetracker.com/ How will the democratization and decentralization of the blockchain benefit ECO coin and the ECO community in general?
LJ: Exactly that. We see that blockchain technology can facilitate a far more decentralized governance system. Although the project will start with a core team/leadership we want to democratize the system so that everyone using the ECO coins can have a say in its future. We believe that no single party should own the system, but that all partners and users should be able to improve the system. In that sense making the project open source is really important to us.
BD: I remember reading about a very similar project awhile back, and at first I thought this was that project. I’ve always thought this was a novel use of blockchain technology and I love the concept of an incentive based cryptocurrency that helps to better the environment. While researching for this interview, I came across multiple other coins with the same name and ticker symbol, ‘ECO’. It looks like most of these other projects have been abandoned. How will you separate yourselves from the other ECO’s out there?
LJ: For us it’s less about separating ourselves from other projects (actually we are open to collaborate when it makes sense if we are working towards the same goals) and more about making sure that our ECO coin is something that, to stick with the environmental analogies, can grow organically. This means it has to start with making sure there is a community for this currency and that all parties are benefiting from its use. I don’t see a problem with many initiatives exploring this idea of valuing our ecology in tandem, especially when others also share what they learn from their experiments.
BD: I really appreciate your time in responding to this interview. Is there anything that you would like to add or talk about that hasn’t been covered already?
LJ: If you want to follow our progress on the ECO coin and support our project we welcome you to become a member of the Next Nature Network at nextnature.net/welcome
BD: I ask all my interviews the same last question. Cryptocurrency will likely play a large roll in future society. How do you see cryptocurrency in general being used in the future?
LJ: Personally, I see any technology as a way to achieve some sort of societal goal. So I believe cryptocurrencies certainly have the potential to play a strong role in the future of our society because it can allow us to develop and redesign our monetary system. I think one major success of the Bitcoin and altcoin movement is that it has helped open up the conversation about how and what we value in our society. Euros, Pounds, Yen and Dollars represent one form of value but I believe its far more interesting to have many currencies representing many value systems in the world. This creates not only a more resilient economy, but also a far more diverse economy that people, objects and even plants may one day be a part of.
The Dood would like to thank Lewis Just of The ECO coin Project for taking the time to answer these questions. I’m really looking forward to watching this coin develop and wish the entire ECO coin team the best of luck on this project and all their future endeavors. This is an interesting use of blockchain technology and I’m really looking forward to following this project in the future. Try these links to learn more about ECO coin and to follow their development.
Coming soon: http://ecocoin.com/
On twitter: https://twitter.com/TheECOcoin