Do The Bright Thing. Shop your way to a sustainable solar future.

February 20, 2012 in Solar

Imagine you order a camera or a new book online, and several days later, you find out that your purchase also contributed to the investment of a solar project.

Do The Bright Thing, based in the Netherlands, has developed a creative financing model for solar projects through online shopping.  With Do The Bright Thing’s shopping platform, shoppers can chose from over 1 million products, and for every purchase made through the site, 10% of the purchase value is invested in solar energy.

How does it work?  For the shopper, there’s really no difference or premium in his or her shopping experience.  Do The Bright Thing is free to join, and the price of the products is the same as if the shopper bought it elsewhere.  Do The Bright Thing has partnered with 300 shopping sites and offers over 1 million products.

Do The Bright Thing partners with manufacturers and distributors to sell the products on their website, and a percentage of the sale goes to Do The Bright Thing to invest in solar.

For each product offered, Do The Bright Thing calculates the product’s “embedded energy”, the energy needed to manufacture the product, and will invest in enough solar power to offset that embedded energy – thus, the customer can finish shopping with a slightly clearer conscious regarding the environmental impact of his or her purchases.

Moreover, within 60 days of a shopper’s purchase, the solar energy associated with the purchase will be installed – and verified by an independent advisory board.  The shopper can then follow the progress and details of the solar power installed from his or her purchase.

Do The Bright Thing’s shopping platform is currently only operating in the Netherlands but the group plans to expand in the upcoming months.  Do The Bright Thing has also partnered with Fair Climate Fund to adhere to a commitment of installing 5% of solar panels in developing countries.

From my perspective, there are two interesting concepts being addressed through Do The Bright Thing’s model: a) raising investment capital in a clever way, and b) empowering individuals with solar power commitment.

One big issue with solar power is the financial investment profile.  Even though solar will pay back eventually, that initial investment will often be a huge turnoff – for individuals and investors.  But if the cash is available, solar IS a good investment.  And Do The Bright Thing has figured out a creative way to raise that initial cash necessary.

And second, by coupling online shopping (in a way that does not detract from the shopper’s experience) with solar investment, the individual shopper is inadvertently empowered – empowered to contribute and be part of an energy project.  And the shopper can then follow the progress of the solar project – just like Kiva investors can follow the progress of their investments in micro-entrepreneurs.  This connection educates and enlightens the shopper, and most of all, helps the shopper recognize that he or she as an individual, can make a difference.