Texting to Raise Social Awareness

The Blue Ocean Institute, a conservation organization that seeks to solve environmental issues through work with the arts and sciences, has come up with a revolutionary way to spread their message: the fish phone. The concept is simple enough: a hungry, yet enviro-aware individual walks into her favorite seafood market, texts "FISH" and the name of her proposed aquatic purchase to 30644, and waits for a return message. The response will be a rating of that fish, in terms of its environmental impact, and comments or suggestions for a more eco-friendly fish to purchase. From my stance as a young eco-tech nerd, the fish phone seems like an everybody-wins situation: the consumer gets their dinner plus a helping of education, and the fish industry gets its revenue in the most eco-friendly of categories.

The fish phone seems to signify yet another step forward in the use of technology to advance consumer education, and as a result, socially-responsible behavior. The tool is simple to use and simple to execute, and begs the question, why are more companies not using this technology? In a time when consumers are ready to wear their philanthropic tendencies on their sleeves, i.e. the controversial "Product (RED)" campaign, Blue Ocean's fish phone seems to fit snugly into the technology toolbox of both small non-profits and big corporations who have turned into socially-conscious entities.

Bobby Shriver, in the Product (RED) manifesto, states, “As first world consumers, we have tremendous power. What we collectively choose to buy, or not to buy, can change the course of life and history on this planet…" While Product (RED) is a shady business model at best, if we take Shriver's thinking and combine it with the execution of the fish phone, I believe we have an extremely useful and progressive consumer tool. If I were able to walk into a store like The Gap and find out which pieces of clothing were made in Cambodia, one of the most progressive nations in terms of worker's rights, and those made in sweat shops in China, I would be much more likely to (a) go into the store in the first place, and (b) purchase certain items, less from the desire to own the object, and more for the desire to do a good deed for the struggling Cambodian textile industry. It seems that it's high time that more businesses take Blue Ocean's cue and start snagging those socially-aware consumers out there.

Dana Variano

Posted at 1:00 AM, Jun 19, 2008 in Accountability | Environment | Permalink | Comments (1)


Hi Dana,

I work for a company that handles some technological aspects of the fish phone project. We are really proud of what Blue Ocean Institute has done with the Fish Phone and thanks for writing about us.

In the article you ask why more companies aren't using the technology. The good news is that more companies are using the technology. From baby bottles to cars there are simple programs where consumers can find information through their mobile at the point of purchase.

I'd love to talk about some of the more innovative projects if you are interested. Cheers, Mike

Posted by: Michael