A team of students from Canadian University Dubai has developed an innovative solution to incentivize environmentally responsible habits among Dubai residents. The application, known as HalaGreen, has been recognized for its pioneering approach by a panel of industry experts, ranking among the top four proposals in the ProjectSet Innovation Challenge for Entrepreneurship 2021, and winning best idea in the Social Impact category of the competition.
HalaGreen is the invention of team Social Clout, a cross-disciplinary group of students including Razan Khawatmi, Sidra Fareed, and Simran Dsouza from the Faculty of Management, and Adel Yousefi and Hajer Ben Mnaouer from the Faculty of Engineering, Applied Sciences, and Technology. The application is a one-of-a-kind platform that tackles the motivational barriers to environmental responsibility by rewarding sustainable actions. Each time a user recycles, uses sustainable transport, or gets involved in other positive acts, they earn virtual points that translate into vouchers and concessions with ecofriendly retailers and service providers.
Revealing how the idea came about, Razan said, “The impact of climate change goes beyond the environment and if we fail to act it threatens to cause 250,000 additional deaths each year and send more than 100 million people into extreme poverty. We wanted to take a positive step that would help people make long-term changes to their behavior.”
Sidra continued, “We discovered that some of the biggest barriers to action are human perception – the belief that it’s not an immediate cause for concern and the general lack of incentive to make a positive change. So we set out to educate people and to reward them for developing environmentally responsible habits.”
Talking about the features of the app, Simran revealed, “The report section enables users to record everything they do to support sustainability, from practical actions like recycling to promoting the cause through participation in events and campaigns. The app also incorporates a discovery section, that connects users with local environmental activities and relevant online content, as well as outlets where they can redeem their points.”
The Social Clout team first aim to roll out the app among Dubai youth. Adel explained, “Research has shown that Gen Z has the deepest concern for environmental challenges and that 70% of young people want to make changes to their lifestyle to support sustainability. For this reason we are starting by targeting the 380,000 15-24 year-olds resident in Dubai.”
Looking to the future, the team believes that HalaGreen can provide the impetus for a larger-scale environmental movement in Dubai, the UAE and beyond. Hajer remarked, “Our ultimate aim is to build a sustainable community that brings together active citizens and responsible brands across a range of media channels to effect positive change to preserve our environment.”
As part of the ProjectSet competition, the team received guidance and support from mentor Bruno Grippay, Regional Director of Nissan in Africa – Middle East – India, who said, “I have been impressed by the engagement of the team, they had a clear idea about the content of this app, how it would attract the young population and how it would raise awareness of environmental issues. The business proposal was robust and their pitch was very convincing because their project was well structured and they were enthusiastic about it. The app is promoting a message that “protecting our planet starts with YOU”, which is an important and basic principle. We could feel their motivation and passion, which is always a strong factor for success.”
Canadian University Dubai offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs across disciplines in Architecture and Interior Design; Communication and Media; Engineering, Applied Science and Technology; Management; Creative Industries; Environmental Health Sciences; and Social Sciences. The industry-informed programs focus on critical work-related skills that present students with unique opportunities for collaboration.