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Hacking The Cleantech Economy

The award-winning apps from this years Cleantech Hackathon do everything from comparing the efficiency of appliances to figuring out which building in your city is the worst polluter.

The future of the resource-efficient economy is in the cleanweb—the intersection of cleantech and information technology, according to Sunil Paul, one of the founders of the Cleanweb Hackathon. The second hackathon, held earlier this month in New York City, challenged 15 teams to "build apps and hacks exploiting new sustainable business models while leveraging the mobile and social web," in just 24 hours. The winners might just have pulled it off.

The Cleanweb Hackathon began last year in San Francisco when the founders realized that at least some of the massive amounts of manpower focused on information technology in the Bay Area could be harnessed to do some good. "[The cleanweb] is one of the most powerful ways to create business value and improve the ways we use resources," says co-organizer Nicholas Eisenberger. "The Google of cleantech may actually be a Google of cleantech in the sense that it may be an ICT firm."

One of our favorite entries this year (and the winner in the Best Use of City Data category) is NYCBLDGS, a site that uses publicly available NYC data to create a searchable database of the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions of municipal buildings.

Developer Riggs Kubiak was already working at a startup focused on transparency in real estate (Honest Buildings) when he decided to tackle the cleanweb challenge. "The city had this before but not in an easy-to-filter way," he says. Now anyone can discover, for example, that the Metropolitan Museum of Art spews out more greenhouse gas emissions than any other building in the city. The NYCBLDGS team took home a Go Pro Camera as a prize.

The award for best overall app and audience favorite went to Econofy, an app that lets consumers compare energy efficiency and savings of various appliances. The team received $2,500 total ($1,000 for Best Overall App and $1,500 for the Audience Favorite App). The award for best user experience and a $500 prize went to Green Carrot, an app that allows users to share their energy habits with friends with a visually rich interface.

Next up for the Cleanweb Hackathon: expanding to other cities. "We want to ramp up this idea of a hackathon to draw people about of the woodwork," says cofounder Blake Burris.