Knight News Challenge-GreenScan

Description: 514 words

Have you ever walked into a grocery store and wondered how much energy it took to produce the myriad food items stocking the shelves?  Are you an ecologically-conscious person?  Would you like to contribute to reducing your personal and local carbon footprint but aren’t sure how to start?  With our prospective phone app, GreenScan, you can do that and more!

GreenScan will be an app that anyone can download for free on their Smartphone, iPod, and any other miscellaneous devices.  What the app will do is allow people to scan the barcode of any food item in any grocery store and receive information about several components of the carbon footprint of the producer of that, such as where the item came from, how much gasoline and other fossil fuels was required for it to get there, and how long it took to ship it.  In addition, a customer could also learn details about the company of the item, including but not limited to the following: wages and working conditions of the company’s workers, whether or not the products are fair trade and/or organic, from where the company’s ingredients are supplied, how green their practices are, and whether or not the company is charitable.  If the products are not organic, a customer would be able to learn what kind of pesticides and herbicides the company uses.  In the event that an item does not include a barcode of any kind, this app will also provide the option for the customer to manually input information about the product in question, such as what it is, the name of the company it came from, and the store in which it was found.

GreenScan will probably start out as either a free app or a demo app with limited functions to test how it is received by people.  With the assumption that it will be successful, GreenScan will be updated to a $0.99 application with the demo still available.  This process, as well as actually creating the app, should take up to one year to complete.

For this Android and Apple iOS app, we would need around $30,000 in funding.  This is broken down by the various features included in GreenScan.  People will be able to login via their choice of either email or social media.  With their login, they will have the option to write a review about the item they scan or the item’s company, share the company findings with their friends, and encourage smarter shopping.  Also, there will be a favorites feature where customers can “bookmark” the companies they like for future reference.  We would also like the app to be as accessible for people as possible with a foolproof layout and a salient icon.  All of these things cost money, but they are all very important for the app to reach its full potential and help make a difference.

As young entrepreneurs and environmentalists, our team is very optimistic about GreenScan.  We believe it will be a sensational, everyday app that will encourage both consumers and producers to be ecologically-conscious stewards of the environment.


Unmet need:180 words

Our product meets the increasing need for transparency with items that the average consumer purchases at the supermarket. When a mother or college student goes into a supermarket they have the ability to take out their phone and easily scan any item that has a barcode. From this scan they will be able to see on the GreenScan app all of the different components that are mentioned in the app description above. This app gives the consumer transparency for the products that they are buying. The consumer is able to see where the food they will be consuming is coming from and whether they are made in a safe and fair manner. It makes big corporations more accountable for their practices and gives the consumer more of a responsibility to make a more environmentally-conscious decision. The average consumer is able to make an environmental impact by making a more informed decision when they go grocery shopping. As shown in the potential market data, many consumers want to better understand environmental terms and their impact and this app will help lead this movement.


Potential Market: 130 words

The target customer for the GreenScan application is a health-conscious and environmentally-friendly shopper who has access to a mobile phone. According to “Environmental Leader,” 71% of Consumers think Green when purchasing items. 7% consider the environment every time they shop, while 20% consider it regularly and 44% consider it sometimes. What was most interesting about this study was that consumers are showing an inclination to learn more. 71% of consumers wish companies would do a better job helping them understand environmental terms. This shows that there is definitely a large potential market for the environmentally-conscious customer who wants to know more about what they are buying.


Innovation: 202 words

Our closest competitor is GoodGuide, an app that rates products based on their ingredients, the environment, and society. While this app is based upon the same basic ideas as GreenScan, it includes significantly less detail than our app would. GreenScan calculate a given product’s score in these three categories, but the actual factors contributing to the rating do not appear. In addition, we plan to include more detailed information about meat products than GoodGuide includes, such as the type of feed and fertilizer used and the overall energy footprint of the product. This would describe how far the product has traveled, whether and for how long it has been frozen, and the overall energy input used throughout the product’s lifetime. The energy footprint would appear as a comparison relative to other similar products, to provide customers with a clear frame of reference. In addition, we plan to add to incorporate photographs into the app, so customers can quickly see the living conditions pertaining to animal products, and the working conditions pertaining to all products. While some apps currently on the market feature a few of these ideas, none have compiled all into a streamlined, comprehensive, and easy to use application, as GreenScan would be.


Interviews: 216 words

We spoke with four individuals – two university students, Sarah and Paul, a 20-year-old engineer, Steve, and a 27-year-old artist and an environmental worker and artist, Shelby. All voiced frustration about the disconnect modern day American consumers feel at the supermarket, and all expressed a desire to know much more about the source of their food products. Interestingly, Paul and Sarah noted that they are less interested in whether products are organic, because they feel that this rating system is often not stringent or descriptive enough. Rather, they wished to know about the overall energy footprint of a product, including how far it traveled and via what mode of transportation. Shelby desired knowledge about the working conditions where products are made, while Steve placed more of an emphasis on knowing what went into his meat products. He noted that while he would like to see companies use natural fertilizer, this issue matters less to him than whether companies use growth hormones in their meat. He would also like to know what type of diets animals have, such as whether they are grass-fed or eat other animal products. While the ecological footprint of animal feed matters to Steve, he said that the taste of the meat varies greatly depending on their feed, and this matters just as much.


How will it be financially sustainable: 143 words

There is a need for this app. People will be willing to buy and invest money in a product that allows them to choose the best quality product when shopping especially in a day an age where products that are low-quality can sometimes present either immediate health risk or long term health risks. This product will also be sustained by people concerned about their carbon footprint and its impact on the world. In addition it is possible that the government could fund this project to help lower overall emissions and to help communities eat healthier to help prevent incidence of things such as diabetes and obesity. Moreover, there is no doubt that this product will be financially sustainable.


Why is our team right for the project: 106 words

Not only have a strong passion for informing people about how their everyday choices can impact the environment, but we also want to give them the tools to make more informed choices. In addition we make it a point to not stop at the level of the consumer or store, but also the farms and suppliers that distribute this food, by doing adequate research on consumer behavior as well as the ecological footprint of the forces that supply food products we can bridge the gap between consumer and producer as well as inform consumers about the quality of the product they are actually receiving when they shop.


9 Responses to “Knight News Challenge-GreenScan”

  1. Hi GreenScan Group! I think that you have a really interesting proposal and I would definitely like to use this product. My first question about the app is How do you plan to find the information about these products? I am not sure if companies are open to sharing the information about what pesticides they use and how much their workers are paid. Additionally, I wonder if the information will be accurate when food companies get their supply from different farm, possibly even in different countries.I also think that you should have a stronger argument for why the app is financially sustainable. Simply having a need is not enough. Could you fund the app with ad revenue, in addition to the 99 cent version? Are there any food-conscious groups that you could partner with to obtain more funding? I am also curious about the breakdown of the funds that you are asking for, and what you plan to do with $30,000. Overall, I believe that you have a great idea and wish you luck with the rest of your project!

  2. Great idea! The first aspect that stuck out to me as missing from this piece is an explicit explanation of how this idea links to journalism. At first I didn’t understand it at all, but when I thought about it, I believe there is a very strong link here related to presenting and sharing information, and perhaps taking the extra step to explain that relationship would be worthwhile. Another consideration is that while creating and maintaining the app may be financially stable, you might have a lot more issues linking this information to an item’s barcode. Many stores and deep pocket companies for example would have economic motives for veiling the information that you are trying to make more accessible and could be resistant. I thought your interview information was great, and maybe you can use that feedback to allow app users to customize the priority of the information they receive? If like you said, one person wants to know more about carbon foot prints, and another wants to know about worker treatment, you could let them decide the order of the facts.

  3. Great idea! The first question I have is how do you intend to raise the initial $30,000? Would you offer ad-space, or go some other route? Also the idea of keeping large corporations accountable is great, but what if a company does not comply with your ap/doesn’t give up data? It may be economically damaging to a company to release information to this app if their practices are substandard and economically damaging.

  4. I think this is a really interesting idea, and I think it could be very useful, especially because the dirty dozen and clean 15 apps have been so successful. I do also have the concern of how to fund the idea initially, but I think ads seem to be a great fit. Additionally, what would you do about companies who do not want to share their information? I think a possible solution could be to give companies some small incentive to have their information on your app, such as cheap advertising. One question I do have is how is this news related? Maybe it would feel more so if you also ran stories on your sight about good and bad company policies being implemented across the country. Another problem would be how much information supermarkets wish to give you, and the amount of work to gather all the initial data. In final, I think this is a great idea, and seems that it could be implemented and successful if it were done with care. Great job team!

    • Thank you for the comments and suggestions! I know it would be difficult to get all the information for the app from the stores and the companies. I like your idea to give the companies some kind of incentive for participating! That is a good idea for getting that information, because I was wondering about it myself. One thing I thought might also work would be just not having a company show up if someone searches it if we aren’t able to get their info, so people may be kind of suspicious and lean more towards the companies that did share their information. We wouldn’t want to publicly shame the companies though, so your idea might be better.

      As for the news, I agree with Irene’s comment that the connection is that it is publicly sharing information, even though it isn’t in the traditional news format. We could elaborate more on that aspect for the pitchfest.

      Again, thank you for your comments!

  5. I really like this idea; I think it would be incredibly useful for consumers who are serious about being ecologically conscious. I do have a few questions in terms of the more logistic side of this idea. First, how do you plan on finding the information regarding energy use of products? How would you motivate companies to disclose the information about the energy use of their products? To me, it makes since that eco-friendly companies would have an incentive to release information via GreenScan however I could foresee companies who are less eco-friendly to be hesitant about participating in an app like this since it could affect sales.

  6. Overall the idea is great, but feel that more avenues can be explored in financing the project. Whether it be from large corporations or other organizations. In addition exploring the breakdown of how it would be financed and where money would be allocated would also be interesting.

  7. Hi, Bailey, Anna, Brooke and William. Interesting idea! I think William is on target with his suggestion that your greatest potential to improve and polish this idea lies in the financial area. Do you have any indication that people will pay for this? Also, it sounds like it will be expensive to gather and verify the data you need to run this app. Have you considered partnering with any existing organizations that have an audience of people potentially interested in this kind of information? For example, potential partners might include environmental nonprofits or news outlets that feature environmental news.
    I think the strongest part of your application is the interview section. Great range of potential users represented here. I agree with the suggestion that you might want to consider allowing users customize the app to forefront their specific concerns.
    A few other smaller points:
    I love the idea of photos, but how will you collect them — and all the other info this app will require?
    You mention statistics from Environmental Leader. What is that? Is it credible?
    Can you briefly mention something more specific about each of the people on your team and the skills you bring to the project?
    Overall, nice job on this! I look forward to the in-person pitch.

  8. Hi @emiliaaskari thank you so much for all of your feedback. In regards to your first concern about whether this app is financially stable, our research has proven that people are willing to pay for this app. Along with our statistics from Environmental leader, Nielson also did a report ( that shows that Generation Z, 15-20 year olds, are willing to pay more for products or services that come from companies who are committed to positive social and environmental impact. The statistics are so overwhelming, claiming that 3 out of 4 respondents would pay more to be more environmentally conscious, reassuring us that there is definitely a potential market and demand for this app. We also have looked into the possibility of paying for the app through advertisements, and then offering a premium account without advertising that would have a base fee.
    In terms of your concern if “environmental leader” is a reliable news source, I have attached their home page which states that they are the leading daily trade publication keeping corporate executives fully informed about energy, environmental and sustainability news. The website also has a long list of writers and analysts that make it a trustworthy source of information. (
    I think that your idea about partnering with other NGOs and news outlets is a great idea and we have done some research already on some organizations like: AccountAbility, a leading global organization that delivers innovative solutions to critical challenges in corporate responsibility and sustainable development. We were also thinking about partnering with the production team of Food Inc, the documentary which exposed the horrible practices of where some of our food comes from. Another idea was partnering with TakePart which has a campaign to uncover worker conditions/ingredient labeling in food.
    In terms of our skills, I for one have taken marketing classes at the University of Michigan and have done a lot of research about consumer analytics and what consumers really want. I for one, think that this app is very marketable to a demographic that wants to hold corporations responsible and keep the shopping experience transparent. Anna’s skills are that she knows some local farmers in the Ann Arbor area. These connections have the potential to connect our team with local/ small farm organizations in order to collect a good sum of our information. Bailey’s skills are that she is passionate about the topic and driven to make a difference, so she will be very persistent in gathering information as well as being very detail-oriented.
    Thank you!

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