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2019 Grad Working on App to Unify People

Ben Buckley
Ben Buckley ’19

Ben Buckley is spending the summer following graduation working on an idea that he hopes will help bring the world together around environmentalism – one community at a time.

Ben graduated from Keene State May 11 with a graphic design major and fine arts minor. He’s working at a Keene screen printing company, and in his off hours he’s developing an app that he conceived as a project for two senior year classes.

Called “Ecopin”—the “eco” refers to both ecology and the economy—the app is a social media platform that appeals to both people’s green side and the desire to connect in a way that’s not polarizing. Ben conceived of the concept in a first-semester graphic design class, Identity and Design. Students were assigned to come up with an idea for a company and then create its branding – logo, fonts, colors, etc.

“I like to go out and photograph pollution in the wild,” he says, “and try and paint a picture with that for people to see.” That got him thinking about an app where people could drop red pins into a map to indicate places where there is pollution or litter, and green pins to indicate places that are environmentally friendly, like recycling centers, sustainable businesses, and natural areas.

He put together mock-ups of Ecopin’s interface, terming the app “Social media with a green twist.” Ben continued with the project in a second-semester environmental studies class, Environmental Advocacy. “Through my in-class discussions I quickly learned that as long as our nation remains divided and hateful, the environment will continue to suffer,” he says. “The best way to save the environment is to reunify our country. Only then can we convince people across the aisle to effectively take action on climate change.”

The leading social media platforms have been corrupted by greed, he says, leading to hatred and division. Ecopin will encourage civil discussion among people who disagree, and it will also encourage people to go into their local communities, participate in events, and support local businesses.

He added a blue pin, one that indicates social gatherings and events like farmers’ markets, political rallies, yard sales, and concerts.

Ben’s next steps are to get a preliminary patent for Ecopin and then connect with an app developer who can write the code to turn his concept into something people can download on their cell phones. He’ll be talking with local officials in Keene, as he hopes to launch the app here in town.

The benefits of Ecopin over social media apps like Facebook and Twitter are many, he says. Most important is that the app pledges to be a nontoxic, nondivisive, and nonspying platform. It will also promote local independent businesses. In addition, Ecopin will be able to indicate that an area or region is “green,” which could bring more tourism.

Also, Ecopin will foster respectful dialog, in part by educating advocates on ways to reach out and interact with people who disagree with them. “The better environmental advocates are, the more people will be drawn into environmentalism,” says Ben, who adds that the environment isn’t a right vs. left issue. Climate change will affect all of us, he notes.

The plan is to get a prototype into action in Keene by the 2020 elections. If that goes well, Ben will launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund expansion to other local towns, then to the state of New Hampshire – and eventually to other states and even other countries.

“I’m anxious to get started,” says Ben, who hopes Ecopin will help take some of the power away from politicians and return it to people – and, in the process, bring us together.

“Most social media apps don’t teach us to look away from our phones and go out into our communities, so we’re seeing less and less community involvement,” he says. “The solution that I came up with is to encourage people first to talk to your neighbors rather than yell at them just because they share a different opinion, and the way to do that is to get them into their community more. When the right and the left are together at a community event, they realize that they aren’t so different after all.”

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