Kevin Muise and Jin Fan of Simon Fraser University in Canada hope that their GreeNet application will motivate people to save energy by fostering healthy competition with friends on the site.
GreeNet uses data from electricity providers to give subscribers information about their energy consumption patterns.
To help visualise their impact, the application places a virtual garden in the user's profile. Each energy-saving action then triggers the increased growth of virtual trees and flowers.
"It's just like actual gardening," said Muise. "You see other people's gardens growing beautifully and get the urge to improve your lawn."
The GreeNet app came second in the interface design category at the recent Microsoft sponsored Imagine Cup competition.
Muise warned that, in order for the application to really take off, it needs the buy-in of an energy service provider to allow it to be tied directly to energy use.
The creators reckon that social networking sites are the perfect medium for this kind of campaign as they engage users and encourage the communication of information and ideas.
"If you want to instigate change, you need to talk to the youth. They are the people who one day will be the decision makers," said Muise.
"And if you want to catch young people's attention, you need to speak to them where they are, and that's in sites such as Facebook."
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