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Green Beanz — Bringing the Spirit of Sustainability into P2E Gaming

10 Feb 2022

The environmental impact of blockchains, particularly those using energy-intensive “Proof-of-Work” (PoW) consensus mechanisms to validate new transactions, has been one of the cornerstones of popular critiques levelled at the industry. Even Elon Musk, the controversial darling of the crypto community, was quick to make a sharp about-turn, citing concerns over its impact on carbon emissions – just a month after announcing to much fanfare that Tesla would accept Bitcoin payments around March last year.

The responses by industry players have ranged from pointing to the significantly greater environmental impact of the present banking system running on Web 2.0 payment rails to promoting “green” blockchains that don’t rely on energy-intensive consensus mechanisms.

But the founders of the fledgling play-to-earn (P2E) startup, Green Beanz, might have a better idea. They hope their blockchain-based game can reward environmentally-friendly behaviors in real life – all while running on the Zilliqa network, an energy-efficient blockchain whose carbon footprint is so low; it’s been estimated only one country on Earth emits less carbon than Zilliqa: the island nation of Tuvalu with a population of about 12,000 inhabitants.

One missing piece of the sustainability puzzle is the problem of incentives. Simply put, there is often no money to be made for individuals or companies if they produce less waste or engage in other “green” behaviors. In fact in some cases, it may even cost more. For instance, switching to a biodegradable packaging material for food simply eats into restaurants’ margins. 

No one is more familiar with this problem than Chunhui Suen, one of Green Beanz’ co-founders. Suen is both a tech industry veteran and a passionate advocate for reducing our waste and carbon output. Since 2018, he has been running Kindred Community, a non-governmental organization in Singapore that rallies the community to clean up public beaches and parks. But he quickly realized that many startups and NGOs in the sustainability space often lacked a viable business model to finance rewarding people for participating in such activities.  “If we can just get 5% of the global population to change their behaviour, we can dramatically reduce our impact on the environment. But to do that, we need a robust incentive system that can reward people for doing so”, Suen explained.

With over a decade working on cloud computing, big data infrastructure, and distributed systems at companies like IBM and Visa, Suen was intrigued by the potential for blockchain-based games to be that missing puzzle piece. He noticed how P2E games like Axie Infinity were skyrocketing in countries like the Philippines, where its in-game tokens are increasingly being accepted as currency in real life. Suen also drew inspiration from Pokemon Go, the augmented reality (AR) game that succeeded in convincing large crowds of sedentary urban dwellers to go forth into the real world.

That’s when the idea for Green Beanz was born. Suen hopes that by building and growing a community of gamers around a fun, Axie-like P2E game, they will be eventually able to link the minting of in-game characters, or the mining of in-game currency to real-world behaviors that reduce waste or carbon emissions. That way, players who love the game can pay miners to make a difference in real life.

Suen had known about Zilliqa since 2018, having met with its early team members while teaching blockchain at the National University of Singapore as an adjunct professor. But he was hesitant about trying to learn Scilla, the smart contract programming language, on his own. So when he received an email invitation to join the ZILHive Incubator in 2019, he jumped at the opportunity.  “Scilla, like other functional programming languages, has a syntax that can be harder to read and understand. So having a structured programme and instructors that can really help you when you run into problems is invaluable”, Suen said. 

Being accepted into ZILHive was also instrumental in helping Suen bring his idea for Green Beanz to life. For one, that’s where he met his co-founder, David Jian – an environmental engineer who had also joined the Scilla developer course. Along with Jian, Suen also found other like-minded teammates interested in using blockchain for good. The ZILHive Incubator brought together a team of highly experienced professionals with diverse and complementary skills needed to build a business: from front and back end developers, marketing, and even game artists. 

Jian says the mentorship and masterclasses during the Accelerator programme were incredibly valuable in guiding them through the business side of running a blockchain project like regulations and fundraising mechanics. The project has already seen traction since graduating from the Accelerator program in Feb 2022, with a total of 2.2M $ZIL and 8.7 $ETH raised and 2039 NFTs minted in their presale.

Looking ahead, the Green Beanz founders are determined to grow a base of sustainability business partners while building a community of gamers that can finance rewards for sustainable behaviors. They talk excitedly about the possibility of a guild system that can drive people to organize around hitting collective sustainability targets to gain access to events or exclusive products and services offered by sustainable businesses they partner with. The road ahead to a zero-waste, zero-carbon world may be a long and winding one. But like their project’s namesake, Suen and his team are just getting started.

To learn more about ZILHive’s programmes, visit https://zilhive.org/.