This article was published on September 2, 2010

Can QR Codes Help Save the World?

Can QR Codes Help Save the World?
Tris Hussey
Story by

Tris Hussey

Author, speaker, teacher, & Internet rogue. Author of Create Your Own Blog, Using WordPress, & Teach Yourself Foursquare in 10 Minut Author, speaker, teacher, & Internet rogue. Author of Create Your Own Blog, Using WordPress, & Teach Yourself Foursquare in 10 Minutes.

Some pretty odd posters have been showing up around Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. Just a big, splotchy thing and the cryptic message “Do something small to save something big.” below. Huh. If you’re confused you can blame Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo of Capulet Communications because that’s actually the idea, to ask “what is that thing?” then do something about it. The “something” is in the line below “To access this poster, download a QR code reader for your phone.” Now we’re getting somewhere and that somewhere in this case is

For those of you not familiar with Canadian geography, Canadian is huge. Canada is second only to Russia in terms of land mass. It goes without saying that Canada also has some of the most beautiful wilderness in the world, but like all places on Earth those places become threatened by pollution, development, and all the ills that humans can bring upon the world we live in. The Big Wild is hoping to help change that with the posters to help raise awareness about the Flat Head River in Southwest B.C. and the Restigouche region in Eastern Canada.

Here’s how it works. You see one of the posters (they will be going up in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City) and scan the QR code with a reader (I tried NeoReader and Mobio—a Vancouver company no less—and found Mobio to be easier and more consistent). The reader then asks you if you want to go to a website. If you are in Western Canada you go to a petition to protect the Flat Head River, in Eastern Canada the petition is for the Restigouche. Simple, easy, and fast. Both sites are very well mobile optimized, so it should only take you a moment or two to scan, surf, and submit. Now here’s the bigger question, QR codes are, as they say, big in Japan, but not so much in North American, Canada especially, so why would Darren and Julie use something like that for such an important cause?


Mysteries get people talking. Darren equates this giant box to Lost, everyone wants to know what it is and what it’s for. Darren knows that QRs codes aren’t mainstream, yet, but also that someone has to be first and take a risk. While there are some barriers to adoption, like not very many smartphone owners in Canada having QR readers on their phones, much less knowing what they are in the first place, I agree with Darren that it’s a risk worth taking. Now, as a downside, there is no URL on the poster that people can visit to learn more about the causes or even what the heck the big square is all about. Darren knows this, and it is intentional (he had to be sold on having the small print noting that it was a QR code), but he feels that the additional press, like this post and one in the Vancouver Sun, will get people interested in both the technology and the cause.

As far a technology adoption goes, I think QR codes have a long way to go to common acceptance in Canada. There have to be a few breakthrough uses that people can latch onto (maybe coupons in the store or nutritional info or additional product information) for the technology to catch on. In the meantime, I’m going to use some of the space on my business card (the next time I need them printed) for a QR code to link to my online bio. Like Darren is showing us, someone always has to go first.

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