Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’
This series of ‘Eco Reminder’ wall-stickers link up with lightswitches and outlets to remind their users where the power comes from.
A great visualization of a key part of electricity’s background. It would be fun to see these in public places to match the realistic sources of our electric power.
Some of the graphics tell more realistic stories than others, but the element of humor inserts some fun into a potentially serious subject.
Via a New York Times article, barcode-reader iPhone apps will put product info in consumers hands at point-of-sale.
GoodGuide is already a beta database of info on products will help consumers know what is in the products they consider purchasing.
The service reduces lots of complex info into a single number (the higher the number, the better the product overall). Though the purpose of the system is to create transparency on products, such a single-number approach lacks transparency. Consumers also need education on what’s behind the number. A more visual approach incorporating icons to reference each product’s background story could help.
The New Leaf paper eco-audit is a well-thought out tool that communicates transparency, and -in a beautiful way- helps the end consumer understand the sustainability-positive impact of using a specific paper.
The eco-audit provides a place for data on resources that have been saved throughout the life-cycle of New Leaf’s paper (as compared to the industry standard). The eco-audit profiles the quantity of ‘saved’ trees, water, energy, solid waste and greenhouse gases. And an online portal allows companies to customize the quantities for their own print-jobs.
Customizable background stories supported by sustainability statistics- what isn’t to love? A bit more visual reference could be incorporated into the eco-audit label, or the concept could have some accompanying publicity or other materials that really bring this idea to (visual) life. This may include developing an application to show comparisons online, or supplementing the numbers with visual representation. I -for one- would like to see what an expanse of 118-saved trees actually looks like. Or a comparison to how many swimming pools 50,178 gallons would fill.
My local, local-foods eatery, Common Roots, has launched the first of a series of profiles on the local farms from which the restaurant/coffee shop sources their ingredients. First up: Butter from Hope Creamery in Hope, MN.
Nice story about the history of the creamery (though slightly lengthy for online attention spans) . And a short video (the first time I’ve seen 2500 pounds of butter churned). But what was most Background Story-esque is a graphic that was included in an email announcing the endeavor:
Not only does this factoid give us a bit of background on butter production (by stating the average daily output of 1 cow), it also quantifies the cafe’s own usage in terms of cows. This kind of information puts data in context. I hope to see similar comparisons (especially in terms of land use, water use, etc.) in future showings of Common Roots’ farm/product profiles.
Google is in the development stages of a power meter that enables users to monitor real-time feedback on their household energy consumption. This kind of instantaneous feedback gets to the basic premise of why it’s important to show & tell background stories. This power meter is tool that enables the customer to make their own choices: in this case, the customer can make the connection between more energy usages= more $.
Follow google’s developments on www.google.org/powermeter.
Perhaps this precision monitoring of the background of products also paves the way for technologies enabling people to generate their own power – and sell it back to utilities.
A utility company is literally establishing an emotional connection with the audience: via smiley or frowning faces on their utility bills.
A New York Times article reports how a Sacramento utility is inspiring residents to lower their energy usage by providing them visual feedback on their utility bills…and it doesn’t hurt that the bill compares them with their neighbors. A little competition can go a long way – it puts people’s own actions in context to their peers.
Effective since January 1st, California has launched a clean air label required on every new car produced and sold in California. The label rates ‘Smog’ and ‘Global Warming’ on a scale of 1-10 (5 being the average car, 10 being the cleanest). Though there has been a smog index label since 1998, this marks the first time such information has been available to the consumer at point-of-sale – though it seems you’ll have to pop the hood to find the label.
The best part is that the implementation of the label signifies a step toward transparency and ultimately sustainability: a system is now in place to transfer information from car producers, 3rd party reviewers, auto dealers and to communicate that to consumer.
However, the visual representation of the label leaves a lot to be desired. Very little actual information is communicated in these graphics – despite the seemingly substantial space allocated. A simple line makes up the ranking, but portrays very little detail about what the vague titles are all about. I’d like to see this label make use of the technique of layering: to call out the most basic important information (what’s already shown), while incorporating another level of supporting information to further educate viewers.
The ‘global warming’ score actually includes some interesting elements to touch on the larger life-cycle of the system – a stance not often acknowledged in products. But although this label touches on some issues related to sustainability, it leaves many questions in the viewer’s mind. For many audiences that already have a basic understanding of the principles of sustainability, the infographic neglects to transparently inform what the ‘smog’ and ‘global warming’ rankings actually include. [smog-producing emissions from use of the car for the former, and greenhouse gas emissions from fuel production, vehicle operation, and the car's A/C system for the latter.] It’s also unclear whether average car score will adjust as cars are built cleaner in the coming years.
An online website clears up some of the vagueness: Consumers can also see the top 10-rated cars and check another vehicle’s rating on the DriveClean website. But as information design, it certainly would be nice if the visual representation took the opportunity to communicate more substantive information to potential buyers, educate them on the potential environmental outcome of their purchases, or even motivate them toward sustainability.
‘The story of stuff’ is an animation/video that strolls through the ‘big picture’ of the production/consumption life cycle.
Story of Stuff exposes the connections behind products (and really behind our whole economic system). It paints a relatively dreary outlook, and thereby inspires action. It has been out for a while, and fortunately they’ve recently added an update to the website now allows the start of an outlet for ideas on what a consumer can do about the situation. (An earlier version of the animation left out the last step “Another Way,” lacking details on what the everyday consumer can do about the situation.)
The visualization of the system is impeccable: Black & white sketched and stylized drawings with simple animation leave enough room for the viewer to get their own ideas and apply the concept to their own situation. When people can see the possibilities, they can more easily understand how their own everyday decisions impact the big picture. Story of Stuff does a great job at establishing that connection.
Consumers can track the back story of their Icebreaker product through a portal on the company’s homepage.
Entering a ‘baacode’ reveals pictures and video clips of the people that raise the sheep and the place they roam.
The information for the sample code paints only a picture around the actual beast (sheep) that the wool fibers come from – not the full production cycle or other components of the clothing. But it’s a good start and an intriguing, at least partially interactive space.
It’s great to offer a sample code, but it would be even better to further incorporate the theme of transparency into the application by opening up the archives so that anyone perusing the website can see details behind all the products. (Only having viewed one sample location upon many visits, I’m also skeptical about how many different stories are actually covered in the online application).
The concept is ripe with potential to give the consumer cues to the product’s backstory at point-of-sale.