Written by Jack Thomas, ESLLC 2015-2016
Since the rise of the smartphone, the phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ has become more than good advertising, it has almost become a reality. There are apps for education on specific skills, apps that provide the weather, there are apps which exist solely to be an icon on the main screen of your phone. Apps have been made that boast graphical qualities similar to that of full-blown video consoles, and others have been made with intentionally obsolete graphics. There are apps that are made to help us get around via public transit or ride-sharing. One such app has a backstory, as moving as it’s programming and shows how hard work can pay off, as well as benefiting others with the fruits of one’s labor.
Trees for Cars is a mobile application programmed single-handedly by Leo Grand. As of summer, 2013 Grand was homeless and had been so for the past 3 years of his life. As part of his daily routine, Grand spent time working out with the equipment he could find access to, including chains that he used for lifting. He found these chains in a place that would turn out to be far more fortuitous than he could have ever imagined. His makeshift gym was right on the path that a 23 year-old programmer named Patrick McConlogue took to commute to and from work. Seeing the ambition that Grand had deep within, McConlogue had an idea.
One day before work he walked up to Grand and gave him a choice: $100 cash, then and there or lessons in programming and all the equipment and educational material needed to learn. Everyday before work, McConlogue would spend time with Grand teaching him, step by step about the basics of programming, and Grand would spend time throughout the rest of the day, diligently practicing and expanding his knowledge.
As it turned out, hard work paid off, big time. The first release of Leo Grand is known as Trees for Cars, is available on Android and iOS and provides users with the ability to find others nearby either in need of or offering a carpool and unlike many other ride-sharing apps, does not limit the drivers by making them employees like apps such as Uber. The app’s motto is ‘Carpooling for the Environment’ and the app not only provides users with connections for carpooling, but also tracks the amount of CO2 saved by carpooling, giving users a way to see the impact their actions have had.
Grand has stated that his goal is to help keep cars off the road and promote a global switch from fossil fuels to alternative energy. This app may not be the gateway to making humanity’s carbon footprint null, but it is certainly a stepping stone on the path in the right direction. This story is one of victory, first on a personal level for Leo Grand, a man who had nothing, but when given tools and opportunity, made something for himself and secondly for humanity. The more time and energy people spend on finding new ways to promote an environmentally sustainable society, the closer we become to reaching one.