What is a crypto currency?

A cryptocurrency is an online currency that can be exchanged for goods and services at places that accept it. It can also be converted into other currencies via a variety of online exchanges. Bitcoin is the first, biggest and most famous one, but there are hundreds of cryptocurrencies in circulation right now. A cryptocurrency usually runs on a network of its users’ computers via peer-to-peer software, called a blockchain. This allows direct payment between two parties without going through a bank, Credit Card company or other third party. It is a decentralized and unregulated monetary system, without the control of governments or banks.

What is a community currency?

A community currency is a currency that has been created by a certain group. It is the opposite of a fiat currency, which is backed by the government. Communities are wide ranging in their size, activates, goals and beliefs. Community currencies often try to reflect these unique qualities that communities have. For example, if a community believes in local and organic food then a community currency could be set up as the only way to buy such food, and the only way to earn it is to spend time helping in the production of the food.

What type of currency is the ECO coin?

The ECO coin is a digital currency that one day will become a cryptocurrency (meaning that all transactions will be stored on a blockchain). The ECO coin’s strength is that it can be used at both local level (like a community currency) and global level, to join together these smaller community-based systems. This reinforces the value of the coin and makes sure that it can eventually have a universal use.

How can I earn ECO coins?

ECO coins can be earned through sustainable action. When a local community is setting up the system, it must decide what this action is and how many ECOs will be rewarded. For example, if a neighborhood wants to recycle plastic waste, they can come together and decide to pay an ECO per bag of recycled goods. ECOs can then be spent at local shops, bars or supermarkets.

What can I spend my ECOs on?

ECOs can be spent on whatever contributes to a more sustainable planet. This can often mean that people can buy access to services and products instead of ownership, as this is usually a more environmentally friendly form of consumption. Spending is also context specific. For instance, in a city you may be able to rent a bike for an hour for a few ECOs, while in a rural community you could get discounts at the farmers market on locally grown fruit and vegetable. This currency can also be used to purchase non-physical goods, such as songs, films and access to the latest and most desirable events and talks. We want to encourage the exchange of ECO knowledge too.

Who decides what is environmentally valuable?

This is a matter for the ECO community to decide. Some actions are clearly more sustainable than others (meat based diet VS grain and vegetable based diet). To become part of the system ECO coin retailers need to be approved by the ECO community, which will make sure their principles align with the ECO coin goals. At first the ECO coin founding community will do this, but in time the community will be given a vote to democratize decision-making.

What are the ECO coin goals?

The ultimate goal of the ECO coin is to create a global currency – to be used in tandem with other currencies – that will help value sustainable action and protect our fragile biosphere, so that we can go forward to the future with it. Forward to our next nature.

How do I become an ECO coin vendor?

We aim to grow the ECO coin in an organic way (no pun intended). This means that at the beginning we will start with only a few verified vendors who can accept ECO coins. These vendors will be approached by the ECO coin founding community. Eventually, vendors can apply to become part of the system or can be nominated by the larger ECO coin community.

How will the amount of environmental value be decided?

This will need to be decided case by case as each action will have a different level of value. However, the ECO coin founding community will further explore this issue and deliver a pricing report to help people calculate a rough estimate of how much ECOs an action should be given. Ultimately the community and market will decide on the price.

Why can’t we just use Euros, dollars or pounds as a reward?

Fiat currencies (those backed by governments like the euro, dollar or pound) are a great financial tool but do little to reflect environmental value. They are also exchangeable for services and items that are not deemed as sustainable. So these fiat currencies do not align with the ECO coin goals. Furthermore, there are various complicated legal reasons (taxation, exchange rates, etc.) that make fiat money a poor fit for this project..

Can I trade ECOs for other currencies?

We cannot stop anyone from trading ECO coins for other currencies, such as euros, however we do discourage such trades. ECO coins should be earned through sustainable action. Simply buying (or selling) the currency takes away from its original purpose.

What about existing initiatives like Natural Capital or Carbon Trading?

These initiatives are top down, bureaucratic and aimed at businesses. We compare them to a stick and the ECO coin to a carrot: they punish whilst the ECOs reward. This type of initiatives means well, but the new system they create can also have an adverse effect on nature. For example, within a Natural Capital framework, when we start to put a direct price tag on nature (or ecosystem services as they are sometimes known) it instantly commodifies something so valuable that is impossible to put a price tag on it. These commodities can then be enveloped into our current market with damaging costs. For instance, lets say an area of forest is priced at €100 but cutting the trees down to plant crops for bio-fuels would amount to €120. We would lose the forest and everything that goes along with it. The wildlife, the carbon sequestration and the invaluable experience that the forest offers to people. A similar argument can be used against carbon trading. If a company can buy the right to pollute, they might do substantial damage to a unique natural lake (with rare wildlife) nearby, then the trees planted to offset their carbon (and pollution) will never help bring the unique lake or animals back to life.

Does the ECO coin use Blockchain technology?

In the near future the ECO coin will be built on blockchain technology as a cryptocurrency. This helps to secure the network and makes it more decentralized and democratic. For instance, cryptocurrencies can be used to cast votes or to peer review vendors or ECO coin users. This would be similar to leaving a review in an online marketplace.

How is the ECO coin funded?

Currently the ECO coin is subsidized by the generous support of various funds in the Netherlands, including Creative Industries Fund, Stichting Doen, TU/Eindhoven and Mediafunds. In the future we would love to see this supported using a tax on banking trades (see robinhoodtax.com) or crowdfunded (see daohub.org).