Free beer (and ice cream) for cycling in Bologna, local retail services for volunteering in Newcastle-Under-Lyme. Communities can incentivise themselves

We support and appreciate the urgency about climate crisis that Extinction Rebellion have brought to the field - more on that elsewhere this week.

But not everyone will respond with equal fervour to their exuberance and powerful memes. There’s a lot of distance that people can travel even just as mindful urbanites and suburbanites. People are eager to get involved in new routines and practices that - interestingly and enjoyably - bring them useful services, while drastically reducing their planetary impact.

Here (video at the top, web page) is a dreamy example from the BBC’s excellent World Hacks site. The Independent summarises below:

For six months a year, an initiative called Bella Mossa (“Good Job”) operates within the city, which rewards users of sustainable forms of transport with free beer, ice cream or film tickets. 

The programme, which runs from April to September, aims to reduce pollution and offers residents and visitors an incentive to walk, cycle or take public transport, rather than travel by car.

Participants simply download the Better Points app on their phone, where they can log up to four journeys per day.


Over 100 businesses in Bologna have signed up to the scheme to offer benefits for points accrued.

Before heading off to your local cycle track, travellers should be aware that points are awarded for the number of trips taken, rather than the distance covered. Whether you travel one kilometre or 10, the points will remain the same. 

To avoid any abuse of the system, a GPS tracker makes sure people are being honest about the journeys they log and the method of transport used. The app also tells users how much CO2 was saved on each journey.

Urban planner Marco Amdori devised the scheme in 2017; it’s funded by the EU and Bologna’s local government.

In the six months Bella Mossa was operational last year, it recorded 3.7 million kilometres of sustainable journeys in the city. 

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Another example of strong cities incentivising their citizens to act sustainably is CounterCoin, which we have profile before here - and is gathering pace in its homelands of Newcastle-Under-Lyme and the towns of Stoke-on-Trent. Two blogs - from the founder Mike Riddell, and the participating academic Carolyn Kagan - update us on their progress.

First from Mike, restating the case (and illustrated by their local superhero, Captain CounterCoin):

For those unfamiliar with CounterCoin, it is a volunteer reward scheme that incentivises and recognises community action and volunteering. It was launched in partnership with the YMCA North Staffs on June 18 2017, and has already achieved a lot with the support of 24 organisations and 140 individuals working together as a team. In aggregate, over 15,000 hours of social capital have been invested into the project. This continues to rise every week.


CounterCoin believes that cooperative values and principles really are the key to securing The Viable Economy – one in which everyone is pulling in the same direction. And what we are doing here in Stoke we hope will eventually benefit everyone who shares our vision for a healthier, wealthier and happier world.

CounterCoin believes in showing the world what The Viable Economy looks like. We are people who ‘show’, not ‘tell’. [The Viable Economy is a manifesto from the Steady State Manchester group]

Carolyn’s blog gives some helpful and illustrative scenarios on how CounterCoin works:

A cinema sells tickets for a show but has some spare seats which are unused. This space is wasted. The film is being shown, the cinema heated but there are empty seats. At no cost to the cinema, these seats cold be filled through customers part-paying in CounterCoin they have got through spending time volunteering in the community, so that only the balance is paid in cash. For example, the cinema could sell of £6 seats not purchased an hour before the screening for £2 plus 4 CounterCoin.  That way they are increasing their audience, improving the atmosphere in the cinema and increasing revenues by £2 in a manner which hasn’t devalued the price of a seat for the regular cinema-goers.

A bowling alley is quiet in the afternoon. The lanes are empty, the place is heated and the lights are on. The empty space is wasted. At no cost to the bowling alley, these lanes could be filled through customers paying in CounterCoin they have got through spending time volunteering in the community. Indeed by buying drinks and food, and by part-paying in CounterCoin these customers would add revenue to the bowling alley.

A butcher’s shop has some unsold meats at the end of the day that cannot be kept for another day. They would either be thrown out or sent for animal feed. At no cost to the butcher, this meat could be made available to customers paying in CounterCoin they have got through spending time volunteering in the community. Indeed this might increase future footfall to the Butcher and increase their local reputation.

These are entry points into a wider readiness to change lifestyles to support no-carbon and no-waste local economies. For their power to gently engage the mainstream, they’re worth trying - as the bigger calamity looms over us.