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All about ioby

May 17, 2012

A few weeks ago Noerah and I sat down for a cup of tea and a chat with Erin Barnes, co-founder of a fabulous crowd sourcing website focused on local, sustainable, environmentally conscious projects. Ioby, – in our back yards – is all about building community and knowing that small changes can make a difference. The site works primarily by helping small local projects find funding and volunteers, but is also a shared resource for inspiration and education.

For so many people in what Erin calls the “post Inconvenient Truth era”, the knowledge of global warming is a constant concern. Corporations take advantage of our fear and guilt by offering us greenwashed products which do little, if anything, to really address the problem. Erin characterized ioby as an antidote, a meaningful solution that could connect people locally and encourage them to do and learn something; and yet which is just as easy and immediate as shopping online!

So… how does it really work?

Anyone can set up and lead an ioby project by completing a profile page defining the environmental problem and the proposed solution (before going live each project is reviewed to make sure it fits with ioby’s community and not for profit standards). Sometimes largish, well established organizations use ioby to connect with new supporters; but many of the projects are very small scale: community gardens, compost and chicken coops, urban farms in empty lots, teen bike repair education, play areas for kids… By partnering with ioby even the smallest of these projects can receive tax deductible donations, a huge benefit for your block association’s daffodil campaign.

To take the photos on this post, Noerah visited the beautiful community garden maintained by landscape architect and volunteer Ross Martin which hosts ioby project Children’s Organic Food Patch and features unique artwork along the fence, upcycled from trash by artist Rolando Politi, made of recycled material and trash.

To get a sense of the breadth of projects, and to find some hidden gems, we asked Erin about some of her favorites:

The self professed ‘water nerd’ immediately told us about: ‘Don’t Flush Me‘ – a system of sensors in the NYC sewer system that notifies users when the city’s combined sewer system, overtaxed during a storm, cannot cope with the additional burden of human waste.

She also waxed enthusiastic about 596 Acres: an education project that provides Brooklyn communities with information on all the empty lots in the borough providing a starting point to reclaiming this vacant land as a green resource.

Of course I also wanted to hear about food projects, and Erin mentioned Allergic to Salad: a program that teaches kids to cook, by getting them to have fun doing so, tricks them into healthy eating!

These are, of course, just a fraction of the projects active on ioby at any time… we talked about a whole lot more, and then I spent a long time online exploring the projects in my neighborhood. Indeed, one of my favorite features is the ‘map view’ – which allows you to see all the projects that are, really, in your back yard. It was exciting and inspiring to see how much is going on within a short bike ride of my house.

I hope you’ll take some time to explore ioby too… the most exciting news for our far flung innBrooklyn readership is that ioby, which for many years was in New York City only, has now launched nationally. We so hope you some of you will participate in, or even lead a project in your back yard… We’d love to hear about any ideas you have for ioby projects: and if you decide to participate please let us know!

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