They say that money makes the world go round. But how does it work, and how has it changed over time? While developing the ECO Coin, we’ve been thinking a great deal of money, past and present. From the origins of civilization up to present day, economy has gone through countless shakeups, and yet we tend to take our current way of thinking about money for granted. Welcome to the sixth and final part of The Story of Money: Bits.

Some might have thought that the credit card represented the pinnacle of abstraction for money, a handful of plastic that could represent almost any amount of money. But in recent years, possibilities have expanded with the introduction of digital cash - money taking the form of bits and bytes. With the rise of the Internet, an increasing number of transactions were already taking place online, through banks own web services and independent sites like PayPal. The next big breakthrough was Bitcoin.

Bitcoin was first released to the world in 2009 by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. No bank or government controls or backs the currency making it a peer to peer, decentralised currency. The currency is secured by people all over the world through a process called mining. Mining is essentially using computers to solve hard mathematical problems that help secure the Bitcoin network. This mining wastes a lot of energy.

It’s the first example of a growing category of money known as cryptocurrency. Bitcoin runs on a blockchain which you can think of as a ledger or spreadsheet that everyone can see but once data has been added to the spreadsheet it can never be changed. This blockchain technology can be used not only for recording money transactions but for recording any information. Bitcoin has many benefits but it is still finding its purpose in the world. Currently most people who buy Bitcoins do so for speculative reasons (i.e. they think it will have more value tomorrow). The blockchain technology and cryptographic models are a huge leap forward for money but they are yet to be fully explored, especially from a sustainable perspective.

The ECO Coin, a project initiated by Next Nature Network, intends to harness this technology to help create a more sustainable future. The age of bits is also an age of environmental precarity. We’ve seen that money can have countless different relationships with the world around it. It can incentivize certain actions over others, and even determine our way of living. Yet we are often careless about what kind of actions we are encouraging.

So how does it work? The ECO Coin is a currency from planet Earth which rewards people for their environmentally good actions. It’s not a worldwide cryptocurrency yet, but it has already been trailed at living labs in The Netherlands letting over 50.000 people earn and spend ECO coins. Cycled to work instead of driving? Ate a meat-free lunch? Remembered to turn the lights off? You can earn ECO Coins. And the ECO Coin is intended to be spent on products and services which also emphasize sustainability. The idea is to create a positive feedback loop with the end goal of balancing our economy and our ecology.

And that's a wrap! Want to read the entire series in full? Make sure to join Next Nature Network and never miss a thing!


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