ECO Coin

Would the rain forest still be destroyed if we could pay people to let the trees stand? The ECO coin is an alternative currency to express environmental value. This is how we connect economy and ecology.

Alberto's Choice

Meet Alberto. A farmer in the Amazon rain forest. He has a choice. He can burn down the trees and grow soy to feed his family, or let the trees be and earn zero. What would you do?

If Alberto cuts the trees, another piece of the forest is lost, CO2 of in the atmosphere increases and global warming perpetuates. Still it would be hypocritical to make a moral call upon Alberto to let the trees be and not make a living – especially for people in industrialized countries that cut their trees centuries ago for economical gain.

Rather than preaching Alberto on his moral obligation towards the environment, we should economically compensate him to steward the rain forest.
This is aim of the ECO coin.

Economy = Ecology

Imagine we had a special ECO currency for environmental value.
Then people who add value to the environment can earn ECOs to feed their families.

Why an Eco Coin?

If we have to deal with environmental issues like deforestation, decreasing biodiversity and climate change, we need to articulate environmental value in economical terms.

Comparing Two Ecologies



  • Stable for centuries
  • Self sustainable
  • Threatened ecosystem
  • Rapid growth in the last few decades
  • Feeds on Biosphere
  • Threatening ecosystem

Planetary Ceiling

What we call a growth economy is in fact a process of an economic sphere feeding on the environmental sphere (e.g. the oil trade). For a long time the environmental sphere seemed to be an infinite resource, because it was so much bigger than the economic sphere. In the last few decades, however, we have reached a point where the impact on the environmental sphere reaches the limit of what our planet can carry.

Balancing the Currencies

If we are to cope with current environmental crises like deforestation, decreasing biodiversity and climate change, we have to connect the economical ecology and the environmental ecology. With the latter we mean the ecology of plants, trees, animals, and other organic material. Whereas the economical ecology is defined by our financial system of market, money, goods and other economical exchange.

'To deal with Climate Change, We need System Change'

Koert van Mensvoort, TEDxAruba

Conclusions & Questions

From these explorations, we conclude that an improving the linkage between the economical and the environmental sphere might contribute to a resolution of our current environmental crisis. Potentially, the introduction of the ECO currency can contribute to such a linkage; yet, further study is needed on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the ECO concept.

As described, the idea of the ECO certainly isn’t the most romantic road towards a better environment, as it asks for an explicit description of environmental values and it remains to be seen if people are ready for this. Furthermore the implementation of the ECO currency will require a substantial re-cultivation of our financial system, which will certainly not be welcomed by some of the current players. Tough decisions will have to made, both politically, economically as well as in the moral domain. The implementation of this proposed linkage between the economical and environmental spheres via the ECO currency will surely be far from trivial. Nonetheless we can be sure of one thing: the Amazon rainforest is of enormous value. It only remains to be seen whether we are willing and able to make this value explicit.

Why do we need an ECO currency?

The current disconnect between environmental and economical spheres is an important factor in the destruction of environmental value. The goal of the ECO currency is to link the two spheres by making environmental value explicit in economical terms.

How is it funded?

The ECO is funded by a micro banking tax on global financial transactions. Such a tax on banks can start as low as 0.005 per cent, but when levied on the funds flowing around the global finance system every day via transactions (like foreign exchange, derivatives trading and share deals) it has the power to raise hundreds of billions every year. Proposals for such taxation – also denoted as the Tobin Tax or more recently Robin Hood tax – have been around for over forty years and the pressure to implement it is increasing ever since.

How does the ECO relate to other currencies?

The ECO will be a separate currency that expresses environmental value. Like other currencies its value can fluctuate depending on the scarceness of environmental value, the strength of the world economy and the amount of people who conduct labor in support of the environment.

What are the incentives to earn ECOs: moral or economical?

Mixed. As the ECO is a real currency that has a conversion rate in dollars or euro, there will be a reasonable economical incentive to earn ECOs. At the same time, one might feel morally righteous and proud of earning ECOs, as this means you are contributing to a better environment.

What is counted as environmental value?

In order to cope with the dilemma that we have to make environmental value explicit in order to preserve it, although it is almost impossible to make environmental value explicit – there are so many profound environmental qualities we are yet to understand: think of deep see microbes that play a balancing role in the oceans or potential medicines in undiscovered plants in the rainforest – not environmental value itself, but the active labor of people that steward it is valued.

How is the environmental labor valued?

Through an online platform where people can offer jobs and other members can give credits to these jobs. Such ‘wisdom of the crowds’ based communities have proven successful as a form of co-creation. See for example, a platform that allows anyone to offer and request support for projects.

How does the ECO currency relate to existing initiatives?

An existing system to balance economy and ecology is the CO2 credit trading system introduced following the Kyoto protocol (1997), however a major difference is that this is run as a technocratic scheme without a face to a general audience. Another related initiative is the UN program for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) that rewards countries who preserve their forests by valuing the amount of carbon the standing forest sequesters within the global carbon market.

What kind of jobs could be conducted to earn ECOs?

There will be room for a wide variety of jobs. Basically people can offer any job on the platform and as long as the community feels it contributes to the environment is will be granted ECOs. Everyone can think of something within their power to work on. Ranging from a farmer sustaining a piece of rainforest to deep-sea biologist doing research, to an administrator guarding for corruption by inspecting jobs of others.

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