FAU student’s app is creating an environmental network
Friday May 28th 2010
By: Lona O’Connor of the Palm Beach Post
BOCA RATON — As iPhone Nation already knows, there’s an app for everything. And of course there is always room for one more, so Nicolas Mazzoli developed Ecocritique. The app is a spinoff of Mazzoli’s website, Ecocritique.com, which allows users to comment on the eco-friendly – or unfriendly – qualities of businesses, schools, parks, beaches and other public facilities.
Mazzoli, 33, lives in Palm Beach Gardens and is majoring in geography at Florida Atlantic University. When he mentioned his idea to a professor as a class project, the professor encouraged him to set up Ecocritique in real life. “I call it environmental networking, riffing off the whole social networking idea,” Mazzoli said. The app even allows a user to send a discreet, anonymous e-mail to the person responsible for environmental affairs or health and safety at a company that is being ecocritiqued.
“The app will send an e-mail to that person, saying, ‘You’ve been ecocritiqued.’ It might be about the smell of gas fumes or recycling,” said Mazzoli. “It’s all about accountability now.”If a company’s advertisements are inaccurate, they too can be Ecocritiqued. Of course, the Ecocritique can also be used to send a message complimenting an organization for positive environmental actions like recycling and sustainability.
The Ecocritique app can be used like a GPS locator to find, say, a gumbo limbo tree in a nearby park, if someone else has already added the location on Ecocritique. Or it could show a potential home buyer that there is a cancer cluster or polluted area nearby.
The Ecocritique app also has an educational aspect. Mazzoli launched his app in February and gave it a shakedown run in April for FAU’s Bioblitz, a 24-hour event that combined environmental education and spotting species. “He showed it to me and I said, ‘Wow, we can use this for Bioblitz,’ ” said Leonardo Calle, an FAU senior who organized Bioblitz.
Calle was aware of just two similar devices, one called Archer and another called Noah. Archer retails for about $1,500, compared with the 99-cent download price of Ecocritique. Noah can be used to pinpoint species as they are found, but does not have the “reality” feature that Mazzoli put into Ecocritique, which shows a schematic map of the area. The location device of the app is accurate to less than 40 feet.
“Teachers can use this as a tool to do a mini-Bioblitz with the kids,” said Mazzoli. “My motto is, everybody can be an environmental steward.” During a walk around FAU’s nature preserve, Mazzoli spotted, photographed and GPS-mapped a snake and a few plants found during the species hunt that day.