Do you delay opening your utility bills, dreading the monthly expenses? Are you baffled by exactly what all those gallons, kilowatt-hours or cubic feet actually mean?
A start-up called MeterHero wants to simplify all those numbers and encourage you to save by comparing your water, gas and electricity consumption against your neighbors, and then offering rebates to those who conserve more. Earlier this month, the company started returning $1 for every 100 gallons of water a customer saves below their two-year average, TakePart reports.
Although MeterHero’s new refunds may seem small at first glance, the Environmental Protection Agency says the average American family of four guzzles through 400 gallons of water every day. So cutting 40 minutes from your household’s daily shower time or doing larger (yet fewer) loads of laundry means an extra dollar in your bank account. And with 29 percent of the continental U.S. facing drought conditions, it also means huge benefits for the environment.
The idea for the company was sparked at Marquette University in Wisconsin when two dozen students brainstormed how to motivate people to save water. Testing a form of peer pressure, they developed an online platform to compare utility bills. Heavy users would be urged to reduce waste through “the force of friendly competition,” Nathan Conroy, a graduate student involved with the project, tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
“As humans, how we compare to others informs our behavior,” Conroy says. “We don’t need everyone to become prophets of water scarcity; we just want people to be empowered to understand their water use and take action that works for them.”
McGee Young, a professor at Marquette, founded MeterHero this year after seeing huge demand for his former students’ work. He said the website is groundbreaking because utilities rarely offer incentives for water conservation since “their revenues depend on using water.”
One thousand users in the U.S. and Canada have registered so far. Anyone with a meter, old utility bills or willing landlord can sign up. MeterHero’s next challenge will be obtaining $100,000 in commitments by early next year — enough to fund rebates for 10 million gallons of water saved. They also have plans to launch a mobile app soon, GreenBiz reports.
“There’s going to be no greater public policy challenge we’ll face in our lifetime than managing increasingly scarce resources in a growing population,” Young says. “That’s why we’re doing this. We have no alternative but to think creatively and outside the box on how to manage our water supplies.”