Grant Williard ’79, ’87 was sitting in an airport one afternoon and decided to pass some time by taking a “How big is your carbon footprint” quiz online. When he saw the results, he immediately thought, “That can’t be right!” So he took another. And another. And when they all produced similar results, the idea of JouleBug was born.
“I wanted to start a company that could help individuals become more sustainable in their daily lives,” Williard says. “The JouleBug app does exactly that. It gives the user greater awareness of the impact of their actions on the environment.”
The free application, currently available for Apple products and later the Android market, allows users to earn “points” for everyday, real-world sustainable actions – like carpooling, unplugging phone chargers or flipping off the light switch. The points you earn give you an “eco-credibility” score that you can share on Facebook or Twitter and see yourself on the leaderboard.
“The app combines two very popular things – social media and sustainability,” Williard says. But perhaps the biggest impact JouleBug will make comes from a little friendly competition.
“When we live or work together in community, we are the most wasteful – of electricity, water, waste, etc. – because we know someone else is paying for it,” Williard says. “A university is a classic example. Collectively, universities waste millions of dollars on electricity at the fingertips of students.
“But JouleBug can help change that. We allow groups – like universities – to pay a subscription fee and host competitions, whether it’s between two residence halls or a rival college across town. Students, faculty and staff can track their sustainable movements and prizes can be awarded to those who ‘save’ the most energy.”
The energy savings can largely offset the subscription fee for universities or other large companies, says Williard.
“Using it as individual can help you save nearly $200 a year just by making you more aware of your energy waste and the associated costs,” he says.
Williard will share his story on Tuesday with a group of Caldwell Fellows at a dinner seminar titled, “Doing Better at Doing Good.”
“I worked for a long time building businesses and doing consulting work for the software industry,” Williard says. “But I have really enjoyed the work I’m doing with JouleBug because it matters. I feel like I’m able to give back.”
— Caroline Barnhill ’05
The Caldwell Fellows program is an intensive leadership-development scholarship program that was created by the Alumni Association to honor the legacy of Chancellor John T. Caldwell.