PIPS program rewards students for sustainability

12 November 2019

Caitlyn Dieckmann | Cambrea Hall

cdieckma@uccs.edu | chall2@uccs.edu

[Editor’s Note: This is a corrected article with information provided by PIPS Engagement Specialist Ryan Maikell and Sustainability Director Linda Kogan]

The Positive Impact Points (PIPs) program offers students a way to earn money for being environmentally conscious. Points can be exchanged for gift cards and even tuition funding.

Over 1,100 UCCS students, as of Sept 30, were participating in the PIPs program according to Director of Sustainability Linda Kogan.

PIPs, according to the UCCS PIPs website, is a program offering students a chance to gain redeemable points for verifiable behavior that benefits the planet, community and personal health.

Kogan said that sustainable activities students can gain points for participating in include refilling reusable water bottles, recycling, taking the city metro-bus or riding a bike.

“They also include actions like taking a Safe Zone training with MOSAIC, taking a fitness class, volunteering, participating in a UCCSLead training, and studying in the academic,” said Kogan. “UCCSLead had over 187 PIPs students attend for 600 points each. Numerous students are getting points just for eating at Food Next Door at Roaring Fork, which is included in their meal plan. The goal is really to increase engagement and have students try an activity that they might not otherwise try.”

In order to gain points, students must download the app, and then they can scan the codes that are found all around campus on locations relevant to each activity.

The privacy police for the app on their website mentions that, without opting in, personal information will be sold to advertisers who partner with the program. The personal information descriptions are not explicit, but the privacy policy says that it can include name, telephone number, email address and zip code.

The Google Play Store permissions include location services, so the app may record places where users have been or have taken photos.

According to Kogan, codes for certain activities can be found with staff members who run those activities.

“There are PIPs QR codes at the hydration stations across campus,” said Kogan. “You can also get a PIPs water refill QR codes sticker at the Sustainability Demonstration House to put on your own bottle and fill off-campus.”

Ryan Maiken, PIPS engagement specialist, explained that a student must wait an hour before refilling to earn more points.

“Refilling a water bottle has a limit of three per day,” said Kogan.

Refilling a water bottle earns 20 points within the app, making it so that the max a user can earn is 60 points a day for that activity. Most gift cards require 2,550 points to redeem for $25. For example, a $25 REI gift card is redeemable with 2,550 PIPs. 1 PIP is the equivalent to 1 cent so 25,000 pips would be worth $250.”

“(PIPs) was designed by a woman owned B-corporation,” said Kogan. “They initially worked with CU Boulder to develop the program geared toward higher education.”

After the success of the program at Boulder, UCCS decided to try PIPs making it the second university in the nation to participate in the PIPs program, according to Kogan.

“I would also like to add that the ‘special sauce’ of this program is the PIPs for Education aspect,” said Kogan in an email. “When students commit their PIPs points toward this program, they can earn 2:1 rewards for tuition or books. This means that when a student earns 10,000 points (which is very possible in a semester) they will have earned $100 and will receive an additional $200 from PIPs.

Kogan said that this is very appealing to the students and, thus far, 57 percent of students have decided to commit their PIPs for tuition. “We don’t know of another program that provides tuition funding for doing activities that are good for the environment and good for the person.”

The PIPs app has a breakdown of offers that can be redeemed for points, with contests and surveys available to be entered into drawings for tuition money based on how much money a student has earned on PIPs. Non-gift card offers are time limited.

Kogan said that Maikell is the point of contact for feedback with the app and the program, and his email is st-sus06@uccs.edu.