Knights News Challenge: R3 AMERICA: A Community Network for Reducing Community Footprint

Project Title:  R3 AMERICA: A Community Network for Reducing Community Footprint

Team Members: Lauryn Hong, Chelsea Hoedl, Maura Niemisto

Requested Amount: $25,000

Expected Amount of time to Complete Project: 1 year


Project Description

R3 America is designed to help individuals realize and find the resources in their community to reduce their individual global footprint using the principles of the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse & Recycle. Our project will be an application for smart phones and tablets. When the user starts the app they will be presented with the choice of “Reduce,” “Reuse,” or “Recycle.” Linked into a city-wide network of local businesses and resources, each topic will have a submenu that lists tips and resources on how to effectively utilize the RRR strategies in the user’s community.

Reduce: When the user selects Reduce, the app will give them tips on how to reduce the amount of resources they consume. These can be in the form of behavior modification tips or different resources in the community that enable this strategy. (E.g. Information on where to rent a zip-car, or the public transportation system).

Reuse: When the user selects Reuse, they will be given an option of whether they are looking to find used items or donate their own used items somewhere. For the former, resources on where to find used goods and locations such as sports equipment, book swaps, thrift shops, or office supplies will be available. Being connected to a GPS mapping system, the app will be able to give directions to these locations.

Recycle: When the user selects Recycle, they will be given a list of categories for different products. Selecting a category and finding the item, the user can find out whether or not the product in question is recyclable in their community, and how to go about doing so. The GPS would give site specific directions to drop-off stations.

As an app that requires community participation, there will be a newsfeed that allows people to upload information about special drop-off events for used materials, hazardous waste, or other RRR related events. Also, information sessions on sustainability, community classes and event information could also be uploaded into the newsfeed.  Businesses will be able to send in information about new programs to reduce their impact, or special related services that they may provide (i.e. Whole Foods collects otherwise unaccepted container caps). In order to incentivize people to reduce, reuse, recycle through social norms, people will be encouraged to check in at locations and network with friends who also use the application.


Filling In the Gaps

While we often place great emphasis on recycling, there is little awareness for reducing our consumption levels and reusing what we already own in new ways. The R3 America app works as an equalizer between the three Rs, providing information to citizens on ways they can reduce what they buy and reuse what they currently have so they don’t have to buy new. Thus, people can use the app to gain knowledge about ways they can save and buy less, while discovering ideas for ways in which they can create something new out of the old. Besides providing knowledge about environmental waste issues, the app also incorporates practical steps and procedures for users to actively engage with the problem of waste and overconsumption. Overall, this app will contribute to reducing America’s overconsumption of natural resources and consumerist attitude.



(1) Alison Richardson- Waste Reduction and Recycling Office, UofM (

(2) Dean Lansdown- 52 year old male, Springfield Missouri, Accountant (

(3) Megan Fisher- 21 year old female, Ann Arbor Michigan, Student (

(4) Kyle Boyd- 25 year old male, Livonia Michigan, Manager at Target (


After interviewing the four people listed above, we found that the only person aware of the reduce and reuse components was Richardson who specializes in waste reduction.  Everyone agreed that having access to a source of consolidated information would encourage them to utilize the three Rs more as long as doing so was convenient.  Lansdown, 52, said that the three Rs was not that big when he was growing up so his education is limited.

Richardson said that interactive methods are an effective way to educate people as well as get them to actually reduce, reuse, recycle.  She said that watching an ad on TV or reading a pamphlet is helpful but often does not hold attention.

Richardson also said that she thinks information is readily available if people want it but that is not enough to get them to recycle.

“They need to be motivated to do this on their own by seeing the benefits in social and institutional norms as well as having the resources available,” Richardson said.

From this suggestion we created a new component to our application in which friends can network and check in.  Our hope is that if people see their friends checking in at these locations and actively recycling, they will be encouraged to do the same.


Potential Market

Our project could be marketed to virtually any community, assuming that there are facilities and resources on site to accommodate the use and that there is a desire for community action and reducing ecological footprint. In fact, we think this could promote a green mentality in the community, and thus self-create a market, as more individuals are connected readily to the resources they have, participants will be part of a social network, and the community is able to generate more information in a centralized virtual space.


An Innovative Approach

This new application is innovative and different from other apps and technologies that already exist. R3 America stands alone, as it highlights reduction and reuse in addition to recycling. Currently, apps such as  My Recycle App and Earth 911 serve as our closest competitors in the recycling category by providing drop off points for disposable items such as batteries, plastics, paper, electronics, metal, yard waste, glass, automotive parts, household items and hazardous waste. However, there are no existing applications that purposely target reducing and reusing as a part of the environmental protection model that society promotes. R3 America targets all three categories with greater emphasis on the first two groups, which will help to mitigate the need to recycle and begin to address the issue of overconsumption.  Also, unlike other environmental or recycling apps, an interactive check-in system between the app user, the individual’s social network and local stores/resources is incorporated so that users are held accountable and have greater incentives for using reused goods or recyclables.



In order to ensure the financial stability of the R3 America application a 99 cent charge for downloading will be implemented.  The money brought in from this fee will be put towards expanding the reach of the application, encouraging members of cities or towns we wish to incorporate to compile locations and information, and support any technical aid we may require after the application is fully developed.  A 99 cent charge for an application is fairly standard so we do not think this will deter people from downloading and using the application.



Our team is qualified to develop the R3 America application because of our dedication to placing emphasis on not only recycling, but also reducing and reusing.  There are several applications that make recycling information more accessible but there are almost none that provide information on reducing and reusing.  Because our team understands the importance of these often overlooked components, we are qualified to make an application that stresses their necessity.

Our team also has a strong background in Environmental Studies, Global Health, Political Science, and English.  We have the tools to understand the importance of reduce, reuse, recycle and its effects on the world around us as well as the knowledge of what sort of impact recycling can have on health.  We are well versed in what governmental institutions exist to support effective recycling and we have the communication skills to put together a cohesive and user friendly application.


About mauraniemisto

I am a senior at the University of Michigan with a concentration in Program in the Environment. I also have minors in International Studies and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.

6 Responses to “Knights News Challenge: R3 AMERICA: A Community Network for Reducing Community Footprint”

  1. Also, the title is supposed to be read “R-cubed,” but I don’t think wordpress allows for superscript.

  2. Hey all,
    I love your app idea. An overwhelming feeling that I got from visiting the AA recycling center was what about the first 2 Rs. They have a greater impact and I don’t feel like we are going anything to help encourage them. I think that your app is a great idea to encourage people to do the first to Rs more and also raise awareness of their importance to the environment.

  3. I think this is a great idea – it would be so helpful to have an application that did this. What makes your app unique though? What if other apps that have already started on recycling just copy you? It might be cool to think of some new aspect. For example, what if there’s a photo identification component? What if individuals are able to use their phones and take pictures of what they are confused about and the application tells you what to do with it? I don’t know – just trying to throw out some ideas. I think this will help with the sustainability of your app!

  4. I really like this idea! Would it be possible to connect it to campuses and launch sections that relate to campus initiatives for recycling? Or even cities? I think this app is a cool way to really jumpstart the dialogue on making recycling something mechanical- an activity that nobody really has to think about- they just do it because it’s good for the environment. The amount of resources related to recycling stations and community classes is great, and I would definitely use it to broaden my knowledge on how to recycle certain uncommon items. When you say that the market is anybody, could kids use this app as a learning tool to discover what recycling is all about if they haven’t been exposed to it already? I think that as an educational too the visuals would need to appeal to children as well as adults, and be extremely user-friendly and vibrant.

  5. This is a really cool idea. I think I would definitely try to use it. Especially the reuse section. I feel like I am always looking for second hand things that I can use as my own instead of buying new things, but I can’t always find a great medium to find these items. For this part of the ap maybe you could separate what you are looking for into common categories like furniture or electronics etc..
    I think apps that have a local feel are cool and make the user feel more connected to the community, and they can move seamlessly from one town to another and still feel connected to the R^3 movement.

  6. This is a useful idea! I’d like to know more about this aspect, which you mention only briefly:
    an interactive check-in system between the app user, the individual’s social network and local stores/resources is incorporated …
    How are local stores involved in the check-in? What incentive do they have to participate?

    Also, here are some other questions to consider as you continue to think about this app:

    How will you gather and update the content for this app?

    Does your research show that people would pay for this? If not, could this be a grant-supported project? Or could you partner with an existing environmental news source, such as grist or treehugger, to spread this app?

    One small point, kind of a pet peeve of mine: utilize. I think “use” is shorter, more direct and maybe a little less pompous-sounding. I’m all for multisyllabic words when they convey something that a shorter word doesn’t. If not, go with the shorter word.

    Again, good work on this. I especially like the name.

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