September 26th, 2011 by Zachary Shahan
A friend of Planetsave, Scott Cooney of GreenBusinessOwner.com, has developed a green economy board game, which will be launching for the holiday season later this year. In the game, players are impact investors shooting for the best triple bottom line return on their investments in the state of Hawai’i, where, currently, 90% of the state’s electricity comes from burning diesel fuel.
In this interview, I had the chance to ask Scott about the game, which is heavily built on cleantech entrepreneurship and investment.
Before the interview, though, Scott is doing fundraising for the game right now and you could help him out a ton by donating on Kickstarter:
Scott and crew are doing a live demo of the game on Tuesday, 9/27 at 3 PM PST, 6 EST, and Thursday 10/6 at 6 PM PST/9 EST. All you need to do is mark your calendars and go to the conference page at that time, and enter the web conference as “guest”.
Now, on to the interview…
ZS: Can you give us a walk-through on the game, how it’s played, how the winner is determined, etc., and talk to some of the cleantech elements in the game?
SC: Players are impact investors who can invest in green businesses across the state of Hawai’i, such as geothermal plants, bike shops, organic farms & CSA, waste oil biofuels processors, and the like. The businesses themselves help employ green collar workers and offset waste, barrels of oil, and imported/processed food. They also pay their investors dividends. So, essentially, the players are getting a triple bottom line return. The player with the best overall triple bottom line return on their investments wins.
As for cleantech, players are able to invest in algae biofuels companies, wind farms, sea water air conditioning projects, energy efficiency consulting services, and the like (see some of the cards above). Many of them are based on real businesses, such as the 30 MW Puna Geothermal project on the big island, and what is being termed “Big Wind,” a 100-MW wind farm slated for development in Maui county with an undersea cable to send the power to Oahu, where most of the state’s population lives.
ZS: Is it a fairly complex game?
SC: As far as gameplay, it’s pretty straightforward, but there’s a lot of strategy involved.
ZS: Such as?
SC: Well, you can build an empire in clean tech or green building or sustainable food. Or you can diversify. It’s a risk/reward thing. Put all your eggs in one basket and you might get lucky or you might get hosed. There’s a new public policy card that gets flipped over every turn, and sometimes they help one particular industry and sometimes they are really detrimental to a particular industry.
ZS: What are some of the policy cards?
SC: There’s one where the state promotes a feed-in tariff (which Hawai’i just did recently), and green builders and solar installers get a big boost. There’s an OPEC oil embargo card, and clean energy producers and alternative transportation companies get a hefty profit because of rising oil prices. But there are a lot of negative policies, too, such as one where a Tea Party politician calls LEED a “jobs killer,” and the state starts promoting suburban sprawl and withdraws support for urban planning, bike lane development, and public transit.
ZS: I see you had some fun with this.
SC: Definitely. But the funny part is, most of the policy and random events that occur throughout the game are based in reality… sometimes scarily so. There’s a set of modern day robber barons in the game, which is a piece on the board called the “oil industry lobbyists.” Last year, when Oahu was trying to add a fee on single-use plastic bags, these guys descended en masse and derailed the bill. While they’re here, they also push other bad policies, and that’s reflected in the game, too. Whichever county the oil industry lobbyists are in, green businesses only pay their investors half their regular dividends until the lobbyists leave.
ZS: You’re on crack. In a good way, I mean. Where did you get the idea?
SC: I was playing Settlers of Catan last October and just saw how wrapped up people got in it. They were learning things, sure, but they were just really into the game. I thought that if we could make a ridiculously fun, entertaining, and engrossing game about sustainability, that people would probably learn a ton about the green economy and come away not just a supporter, but with a realistic sense of the challenges, obstacles, and opportunities that exist.
ZS: How do people find out more?
SC: We’re currently pre-selling the game on our Kickstarter campaign. (http://www.kickstarter.com/
ZS: Oh, and, what’s the name of the game?
SC: Well, it was Angels of Hawai’i, to reflect the players being angel investors, but we ran into some legal issues recently on that from a group with a similar name. So we’re playing with a few ideas for names, but if anyone has something amazing, feel free to send it along! People can email us directly at info [at] GreenBusinessOwner.com or through our Facebook fan page, facebook.com/
ZS: I really look forward to getting my copy in the mail.
SC: And I look forward to playing the game with you at some point, preferably over an organic beer.
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