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Green Tech Matters – Feat. Tim Kindberg

As part of our “Green Tech” initiative, we have recently launched GreenTech South-West, a meetup and community. The purpose being to provide expert insight and thought-provoking discussions on how technology is aiming to help preserve our environment and battle the massive and urgent issue of climate change.

As part of this, please meet one of our most recent speakers, Tim Kindberg, Digital Technologist and Founder of Matter II Media – a software specialist company to enable people to focus on acting collectively. Tim’s topic at #GreenTechSouthWest was all about ‘I didn’t buy – an online tool for empowering consumers to act against environmental collapse.’

ADLIB: Can you talk us through ‘I didn’t buy’ and it’s origin and goals?

Tim: Last year I became determined to contribute in some way to tackling the climate crisis. The government should be taking a lead but I have no faith in the government that has just been elected to make the necessary changes, given its appalling record on environmental issues. I thought about joining XR but I want to do more than rebel. So I started to concentrate on the idea that we citizens, with our consumer power, could achieve a great deal if only we could act in concert. And that is the goal of I Didn’t Buy: to empower people with online support to act individually and collectively in not buying things that are unsustainable, and in helping one another to buy things that are sustainable – or to avoid a purchase altogether and, for example, borrow or do something else. If enough of us don’t buy the unsustainable, then it won’t be produced.

The particular idea I came up with was a web browser plug-in (extension) which would overlay an interface on top of the things we’re looking at and thinking about buying. If I can see that 10,000 people didn’t buy it – largely for these reasons – and instead they bought that (something else) – for those reasons – then maybe that helps me make a decision in the interests of sustainability. It also sends a definite signal to the retailer/manufacturer.

The interface can additionally make it easy for me to take actions such as telling my Twitter followers I didn’t buy it or sending an email to the manufacturer. I put this idea to colleagues at Bristol University and together we obtained funding from the Brigstow Institute to do R&D on sustainable shopping with the public, and to prototype the plug-in. That’s where we are. We’re learning some very interesting things already which will change what we’re trying to do to some extent, but that’s the nature of research.

ADLIB: Can you share a little bit about the green tech aspect of your product? What’s the tech/languages behind it?

Tim: Web browser plug-ins themselves are pretty straightforward from a tech point of view: JavaScript that can examine and manipulate the web page that the user is looking at. The really interesting aspect of this is the information platform that it communicates with.

Again, it’s fairly routine from a technical point of view (my background is distributed computer systems). What’s particularly of interest is how the data is gathered and maintained so as to be reliable. And that’s about social dynamics, economics, politics and science. There’s a tech aspect, but it’s not where the real difficulty lies.

ADLIB: What are the key takeaways for attendees to take from your talk on ‘empowering consumers to act against environmental collapse.’

Tim: I hope they took away the idea that we can do this: contribute to platforms and tools by which we can act together to tackle the environmental emergencies. Maybe I Didn’t Buy will turn out to be a useful approach, maybe not. But collectively, as both developers and people in other disciplines who we need to solve these problems, we are capable of making a difference: supporting people as they make the changes they need to make in their lives.

ADLIB: And finally, is there one piece of wisdom that you could pass on to those who are also looking to contribute to the Green Tech industry?

Tim: I’m very much a tech sceptic. I’ve been in the tech world a long time and I’ve seen and heard much of it before. Tech is often presented as the solution to problems that are in fact political/social/economic/scientific. We need to work in a tightly integrated way with people from those other disciplines – and not think that all it takes is to write a bit more code. It’s important that we develop our information systems and tools – they are vital – but we need to do so in a systemic way, and as a multidisciplinary team effort.

Thanks for sharing!

We take our environmental responsibilities seriously, we get involved, we feature, support and champion Green Tech businesses, those that disrupt and are on a similar journey. Please get in touch should you like to find out more or if you are on a similar mission, we’d love to collaborate to make a real difference.