5 Strategies to Design Engaging Experiences with Sustainability

If your organization wants sustainability efforts to be known beyond your annual report, you’ll have to design it into consumer experiences.

Sustainability remains on the list of top trends shaping business as we move into 2017, driving companies to rethink how to best deliver on the triple bottom line­­—people, planet, and profit. How can your team continue to innovate your corporate social responsibility strategy in a way that’s meaningful to consumers?

One piece of the sustainability puzzle is efficiency—reducing waste or capturing it to be repurposed. The problem with efficiency improvements is that they tend to happen behind the scenes with better sourcing, faster manufacturing, and less material. These strategies are important, but lack a consumer experience, so your sustainability efforts may stay hidden to the public.

Here are 5 strategies to provide a desirable consumer experience when you enhance your organization’s efficiency:

1. Allow consumers to track the environmental progress you’ve made together.

Immerse consumers in the sustainability efforts they care about beyond simply stating it on a label or mission statement.

Sustainable fashion company, Reformation, achieves this experience by providing an online consumer profile that illustrates the impact of their purchases over time. It itemizes exactly how much water, carbon dioxide and waste they’ve reduced from buying Reformation’s products versus a standard garment.

This strategy enables the consumer to see the efficiency they are helping to create by participating in conscious consumerism. It can help your business foster customer loyalty by tracking your relationship over time, and sharing these sustainability details may even give your product a higher perceived value. There is abundant opportunity for the food and fashion industries to improve in this area.

2. Turn sleeping assets into effective moneymakers.

Utilize the sharing economy to take advantage of resources that are inactive in their current state to allow consumers and business alike to minimize waste.

Uber and Lyft turned a stranger’s car into a desirable ride-sharing experience, allowing the vehicle to get a better bang for its buck two ways – 1. More people per trip maximizes the car’s carbon footprint, and 2. Previously empty seats are now generating income.

The sharing economy allows consumers to borrow more and purchase less, which allows for more sustainable consumption patterns. It also provides the opportunity for consumers to employ their assets as business ventures if they choose to. When moving from a traditional product space into service design, businesses are able to rely on other partners to own the assets they use. Low investment, big returns—we’ve seen it with cars, apartments, and planes. Will your industry be next?

3. Empower your consumer to continually minimize waste long after they’ve purchased.

Design not only an efficient product, but also an experience that allows the consumer to practice efficiency well beyond the point of purchase.

For example, when Solar City sells solar panels to a consumer, they sell the experience of net metering. Net metering allows consumers to sell excess power from their panels back to the grid at peak energy times, and buy it off in case they need to supplement their own power generation. The home’s energy is streamlined, moving power to and from the grid on demand to minimize waste.

This strategy helps your consumer generate ‘green’ returns for the long term—both financial and environmental. Every day that they experience the benefits of efficiency, they are reminded of your brand and are motivated to be advocates for it. Products with extended ownership, like cars and home appliances could especially benefit from providing these kinds of experiences.

4. Team up with consumers to use waste for a greater good.

Establish a hub to transfer waste from your business or consumers to projects that serve those in need.

Madewell’s denim recycling program provides an in-store experience for consumers where they can trade in their old jeans in return for a discount on a pair of new ones. The old pair of jeans is recycled into insulation for homes of those in need.

A program that turns waste into useful material provides an opportunity for the consumers to give back, while treating themselves at the same time. This strategy encourages consumers to physically interact with your brand at a brick and mortar location, while reaching them at an emotional level to show that you care about more than just business. Any retail company looking to improve their in-store experience can benefit from this strategy.

 5. Partner with consumers to help your business close the loop.

Leverage your consumer’s interest in sustainability to help you participate in the circular economy, where one business venture’s waste turns into another’s resource.

Terracycle enlists their consumers to help them turn waste material into innovative products, from pencil cases to playgrounds. Consumers conduct drives in schools, businesses, and homes to collect resources that are typically not recycled by municipalities, and receive rewards points that add up to charitable donations.

This strategy gives consumers the opportunity for a team building and philanthropy experience within their organizations while diverting resources that would otherwise end up in a landfill. It helps ensure no resource goes to waste by making use of consumers’ support to strengthen your supply chain and grow your business. Consumer packaged goods companies looking to improve their use of recycled materials can especially benefit from this kind of program.

Consumers want to feel like they’re a part of your sustainability efforts. Using a strategy that taps into emotions and benefits they desire will bring satisfaction along with loyalty to your product and brand. How will you transform efficiency initiatives into engaging consumer experiences?


I'm finished! Waves is ready for presentation on Tuesday. Let me share a little bit about where it ended up,

As a reminder, I felt like the opportunity for this project laid here:

Millennials hold power in the sustainability movement as young professionals entering the workforce. Yet, much of this age group actually missed sustainability education in their curriculums.  Often millennials are interested in the topic, and are, in fact, environmentally conscious. However, they do not know specifically how living more sustainably can benefit themselves, their communities, and future generations. The sustainability movement will thrive when this age group becomes more conscious in adopting sustainable living habits, and understand the reasons why these habits are important to local and global futures. 

A social media tool to encourage diffusion of information, inspiration, and collaboration between global and local players could present an enticing option to create a network of informed and motivated users. 

So with this idea in mind, I went through a deep dive of research and design thinking, some of which I've discussed in earlier posts. I came up with Waves.

Waves is a social network for millennials and their peers, who want an understanding of the world around them, and a deeper connection to the local and global organizations they interact with. Waves provides a space to learn about what makes vibrant people, planet, and communities, and opportunity to collaborate with others to make a positive impact.

The idea of the network is to involve all of the stakeholders required to create sustainable change. Businesses, Benefit Corporations, Nonprofits, Organizations, and Citizens. When we bring all of these players together, we can create collective movement, ripple by ripple.

Waves wants to create movement towards a better, more vibrant world. We are so connected through technology, and to waste that opportunity to mobilize people for positive impact would be a lost opportunity. Waves is a platform to connect unlikely partners, regardless of background, towards similar goals to foster creativity and collaboration. Sometimes a little inspiration, information, and opportunity to be a part of something bigger is all we need to be empowered to make a difference. Every ripple adds up, and waves and movement will follow. We are vibrant en masse, and we can work together across disciplines and beliefs towards a common goal: better quality of life for ourselves and future generations. 

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples
— Mother Teresa

Information without Apprehension

Coming down the home stretch, the visuals are starting to come together, and I'm trying my best to apply the little UX knowledge I have to the network's function.  I want the UX to reflect the goal of the app, which is to allow education, collaboration, and inspiration. There is a balance to find in how much information I provide, to make it enticing, rather than overwhelming. 

I want people to feel ease in looking at the educational side of the network, and not feel apprehensive that it's trying to shove a message down their throats. I hope that part of this ease will come from the fact that the information will continually be provided by different nonprofits and bcorps, making it less biased, but I feel as though the user experience is just as important. 

Luckily, there is a magical prototyping website that helps me to test out this UX ease as I go. Marvel is a lifesaver, and so easy to use with its link to Dropbox. I have been adding sceens as I go to allow me to see how my wireframe is working together in real time. 

I'm hoping with careful visual and UX design, as well as providing information in bite-sized pieces, that I won't turn users off from learning about sustainability. I don't actually mention the word once in the app design, but its education side focuses on the important aspects of environmental and social sustainability. I hope it shows users that these values in sustainability are actually things we value in everyday life, and sustainability can unite us, rather than divide us, if we want it to. 

I hope to have a pretty pitch to show you next week! Thanks for reading :)

How Do We Make People Care?

We're on the downhill of this quarter long roller coaster, and it's the most exciting part of the ride. Lots of work still lies ahead, but things are starting to fall into place, and the groundwork is is paying off.

Some of my research in the beginning of the quarter surrounded nonprofits efforts with their campaigns, and how they create interaction and involvement. I thought I would look for some strategy to help foster collaboration between business, nonprofit, government, and individuals.

Many of the questions that surrounded their articles related to "how do we make them care?"

This is one of the main puzzles that surrounds advocates in the sustainability field. How do we make people care? The network I'm creating is set up like a focused, goal oriented Pinterest. I'm hoping to provide education and inspiration, to make people care, which hopefully leads to collaboration and problem solving.

The structure, as you can see in the developing wireframe, is a nonprofit or bcorp presenting an issue, and education around it. The education aspect is presented in 3 levels. As the user scrolls through an issue, they can understand the concise global context, local context, and personal context to help create more meaning. They can then respond with an idea or action that relates to making improvements to the issue, which others can see and become inspired by.

The social network is titled Waves. Participants, when responding to an issue, can post 'ripples' and exchange ideas and creativity on a variety of problems. Users will be able to see all the ripples they've posted over time, and how those ripples have contributed to help make larger waves towards positive social change. The mission of Waves is to help create the most vibrant people, planet, and communities we possibly can, while having fun and being inspired in the process.

We will see if education, inspiration, and collaboration within Waves will trigger people to care, or become more aware of the issues around us, and I'm eager to test it out. I'm dedicating this week to visual development, and am excited to show y'all what I come up with. Suggestions are always welcome! Until next week :)

Team Effort, but Unique Individual Value

Midterm week has come and passed, and and there are only a few remaining weeks until graduation! Research focuses need to transform into impactful outcomes, so it's go time.

My research for this app/network includes both secondary and primary research. My secondary research consists of publication research, case studies, and expert interviews with digital marketing strategists, sustainability teachers, and nonprofit leaders. Because of the short time frame of the project, I have utilized some existing contextual research from Lextant and Universum about Millennials to support my own primary observations and survey results. 

I took the weekend to synthesize all of the data I have gathered over the last few weeks, and came back with five focuses to move forward with. 


One of the main takeaways from my research is the first focus: 'uniquely valuable content.' One of my survey questions I asked in order to gain insight for how to spark involvement with my app, was "what cause are you passionate about?"

The results were astounding. 44 different causes were represented, and that point alone helped me to realize that passion comes from all kinds of sources. From nutrition, to equal marriage rights, to programs for current and former military, to pediatric cancer research, the drive to make a difference came in all shapes and sizes. So, I began thinking about how I can spark that spirit with each individual, and make content uniquely valuable for each of them. The framework I'm designing for the app is meant to foster collaboration, creativity, passion, and excitement, based off of the idea that the goals and challenges presented need to be narrow enough to have direction, and wide enough to ignite that passion for the different reasons people and organizations have it.

If the app information isn't relevant, personal, and valuable to various players, it won't achieve my goal. The goal is to inspire individuals, businesses, and organizations to participate in their own way, 'at home,' to help achieve a larger positive change. By rotating the content/challenges in the app, hopefully I will hit triggers for initial participation for a variety of people. I believe interdisciplinary participation is one of the major keys to advances in sustainability efforts. A team of unique individuals, with unique expertise, each contributing and extracting unique value within the scenario.

Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
— Vince Lombardi
Each member of a team comes to practice and play for a different reason.

Each member of a team comes to practice and play for a different reason.

So, moving forward, I will be creating journey maps for my players, a service blueprint to define the app, and move into wireframes and visual design for the project. The number one thing that's missing at the moment: a name. The way this network is presented, and the language it uses, is so influential in its success or failure. I'm excited to brainstorm and tackle that step. Suggestions are welcome :) Until next week, friends!

Facilitating Creative Changemakers

Moving through week 4 of the quarter, the app design concept is starting to come together. I look back to my problem statement to make sure I'm addressing it, and I hope I am as I prepare for my midterm presentation. A few highlights as a reminder:

  • Millennials hold power in the sustainability movement as young professionals entering the workforce, but aren't always informed.
  • Information available on social media is overwhelmingly complex—in both size and scale—leaving doubt as to translation or application to anyone’s everyday life. 
  • The lack of relevant context and tools to enable change prevents sustainability information from diffusing on a large scale into millennials’ lifestyles and work.
  • The sustainability movement will thrive when this age group becomes more conscious in adopting sustainable living habits, and more importantly,  understands the reasons why these habits are important to local and global futures.

I want to create context and enable challenge, competition, sharing, and an exchange of public value to meet the needs of my problem statement. Crowdfunding has become so popular in the last few years, and even though I am not encouraging monetary effort, it is a great example of public collaboration. There are personal, local, and global needs, and there are so many individuals and organizations who would love to contribute creativity to these challenges. I want to facilitate this creativity and enable people to create large scale change. 

I admire the efforts of GOOD and Sambazon who are trying to facilitate similar efforts, but I think the triggers they are posing fall into a space on Fogg's behavior change model that displays low motivation and hard to do. How can I use the provided scaled context to up the motivation, and make the challenge open enough to make it as easy or hard as an individual wants it to be?

The model I'm working on right now provides a framework for core values, that will feed into the challenges provided by B-Corps or Non-profits, that would submit a challenge and context to help them further achieve their missions. By empowering them, and providing a space for individuals, businesses, and organizations to respond, and be empowered by those responses, it really is a public exchange of value. Non-profits and B-Corps can move towards their long-term goals, while individuals, businesses, and organizations can share the good they are doing to benefit  themselves , their  communities and society , the  planet .   The framework is still in development, but the skeleton of my brainstorming looks like this:

The model I'm working on right now provides a framework for core values, that will feed into the challenges provided by B-Corps or Non-profits, that would submit a challenge and context to help them further achieve their missions. By empowering them, and providing a space for individuals, businesses, and organizations to respond, and be empowered by those responses, it really is a public exchange of value. Non-profits and B-Corps can move towards their long-term goals, while individuals, businesses, and organizations can share the good they are doing to benefit themselves, their communities and society, the planet

The framework is still in development, but the skeleton of my brainstorming looks like this:


Looking forward to midterm and further development; all feedback is appreciated! Thanks for reading :)

Day-to-Day Goodness

When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.
— Abraham Lincoln

As I've continued to develop my concepts for final project, I waver in how to get to the root of paradigm change about sustainability. I want to create something that doesn't lead to a dead-end; I want it to be something that evolves, adapts, and grows, as the user's perspectives do the same. 

Finding those strategic leverage points that allow both for learning, and for cultivation of ideas and innovation is difficult. The information needs to be relevant, enticing, and trigger the want to do good. If I can create that trigger, and then bring the user back to that relevant information to start the process over again to learn, do good, and share, then I will have achieved my goal.

People love a challenge. People love to see themselves improve and get better. Competition drives our culture. So why can't this be applied to doing good, that not only makes us feel good, but helps us to live in a healthier, more sustainable place? 

I have started reading the book The Solution Revolution to help inspire and guide my project in new ways. It emphasizes the need for collaboration across all sectors to create a productive, sustainable economy. NGOs, government, business, and citizens all must collaborate to solve some of the biggest global challenges we face. I want my project to help create intersection between these groups. "Mark Kramer says that 'social change becomes part of the competitive equation-companies have to compete around their ability to improve social conditions and achieve social outcomes'...In an Edelman global survey, the majority of consumers viewed corporate donations as insufficient, instead urging companies 'to integrate good causes into their day-to-day business" (Eggers, MacMillan, 35). 

So I ask, if we want companies to be incorporating good causes into their day-to-day business, then shouldn't we, as citizens, as well?

A new Social Progress Indicator was just released today, and I love the framework it provides for the wellbeing of countries. I want to express through the relevant context in my app or network that these are the kinds of things we want to strive for, to create a better world for us all to live. My next challenge is how to frame #BeyondGDP in a way that means something to my users, and how I can empower them to achieve this. Stay tuned :)

Social Progress Index

Social Progress Index

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Mindful Millennials

Week 2 of the quarter is underway. Today, I presented my final scoping and initial research planning for my work in progress, ‘Mindful Millennials.’ 


The goals of the project are to diffuse education through the millennial age group about sustainability, create community connection, and encourage lifestyle improvements to live more sustainably. My theory for the project is if you provide meaningful context, and the tools for change, then each individual will apply this information to their lives as they see fit.

The key though, in my eyes, is the meaningful part. 

We are bombarded every day with incredible amounts of information. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, newsletters, emails... it’s constant. So what makes information stick? What do Millennials want to know about sustainability and the world around them? How can we reconnect people to nature, and harness the power of social media and technology to do so? It may seem like an oxymoron, connecting people to nature with technology, but I believe with tailored, specific messages, and tools for local connection, this can be achieved.

With a lot of strategy, and a little luck, I’m hoping an app can serve as three leverage points based on Donella Meadows' Thinking in Systems book. She points out that information flows can wreak havoc on the functionality of a system. Without the right information to the right people, systems will fail. I want to create smooth information flows about sustainability topics that are important to people. Additionally, she says self-organization is a powerful leverage point and tool for change. Social media seems like it could serve as this perfect platform for this kind of leverage. Finally, even though it has less impact than other points, she believes numbers are a place to start when it comes to change. Numbers, meaning every little person doing something good, leads to change over time. Every time someone uses a reusable bag versus a plastic one, that’s a number, and it does have an effect, even if it’s minor. I’m hoping that with context and tools, comes lifestyle changes, even if they’re just little numbers.

Moving forward with this framing, I’m starting to dive into contextual research about content strategy, user experience design, desired sustainable lifestyle changes, and social innovation. I’m excited to move forward, and hopefully come out with worthwhile design to connect millennials to sustainability and their communities. Any feedback or connections to resources would be greatly appreciated. 


We all have impact, negative and positive. How can I use this design to facilitate more of the positive?

Your deepest roots are in nature.  No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation. 
— Charles Cook

thumbnail image source: FastCompany

Empowering Happiness

I've begun my last quarter of graduate school, and it's time to dive into my final project. My goal is to empower happiness through living a more sustainable lifestyle. It's been shown in studies time and time again that progress doesn't come solely from wealth, but from overall happiness and wellbeing. 

I want to share a vision that being conscious, doing good in our communities, and working to live more sustainably does not have to be a burden, but can be really awesome. It's been shown that volunteering, being kind, and other things that contribute to social and environmental progress in a community can improve our happiness levels. For example in 10 Positive Psychology Studies to Change Your View of Happiness:

Evidence suggests volunteering benefits mental health and even, survival. Donating time to causes you believe in not only improves well-being and overall life satisfaction, it is also linked to decreased depression and a lower risk of dying early.
— University of Exeter Medical School, 2013

Adopting these behaviors can help us individually, but also as businesses and nations. The United Nations Happiness Project began in 2008, and has focused on studying progress of nations through their levels of happiness. It has been shown that happiness creates better productivity and therefore higher profits (Pryce-Jones). I truly believe the pitch for sustainability needs to move from seeming like sacrificing to showing that it can make us happier. How will I share this message? That is the puzzle for my last quarter. An app or game or related form via social media to create a community network seems to be the direction I am leaning towards.

For example, with making sustainability enjoyable, I love food. I love trying new restaurants, and exploring little places around town. If someone told me I could visit a community garden that supplies a nearby restaurant to help grow my own food, while getting outside and meeting my neighbors, I would definitely be interested. It's a small act, but it gets conversations started about sustainability in a fun experience that is meaningful to a foodie like myself. 

So I ask myself, what context and what experiences can I provide to different groups of people to get them involved in sustainability? This is the start of my research, and I'm excited to dive in. 

Keep an eye out for surveys if you're a millennial interested in contributing to my research!

Thanks for reading :)

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
— Dalai Lama

image source: https://communitygarden.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Jon-Petersons-peterson-garden-project.jpg

The Real Idea of Sustainability

Sustainability has become a word with many connotations and political agendas. But underneath it all, the goal of the sustainability is to sustain. The goal is to simply sustain the human race, as we find ourselves at a crossroads between population growth and dwindling resources. We have to think about changing our paradigms about what 'progress' really is. And with this new idea of progress, it doesn't have to be negative, but in contrast, enable us to live happier, healthier, more connected lives.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
— Albert Einstein

I found this article about happiness and sustainability that really hit home with the goals of my project. A recent study found...

"that cities with strong sustainable development practices and policies self-report higher levels of happiness. In fact, sustainable practices, such as community gardens, green spaces, green homes, and sustainable transportation, have all been shown to increase happiness. Sustainable design can also enhance and strengthen social networks—and the importance of that can’t be overstated" (Cloutier).

Instead of seeing living more sustainably as a burden, or more work, or more expensive, I want to enable people to live in a way that makes them happy, and also benefits our environment and our society. The question now is how to accomplish that.

Designing for Happiness: The Ultimate Sustainability Solution

The Mindful Neighbor

I am in the midst of research for my final project in the Master of Arts in Design for Sustainability program. My focus is on behavior change towards a more sustainable lifestyle, and with this, an increased consciousness and presence. My theory for this project is context + tools = application. 


To make a change, awareness doesn't necessarily equal action. But a tailored message to a specific community, with specific tools on how to live more sustainably will help people understand and want to apply it to their situations. As Ezio Manzini explains,

“Moving from the idea of ‘designing to solve problems’ to one of ‘designing to enable people to live as they like’ while moving towards sustainability implies a change in the designers role. In short, they should not (try to) impose their ideas of what they think should be done, but they should actively and positively participate in the social processes where these new and processing ideas are emerging.”

I want to explore how we can enable people to do more of what they love, and how to show them that taking the time to slow down and think about impact often better connects us to the people, places, and things that surround us.



We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.
— Herman Melville

Life is all about connections. Our connections to each other, to nature, to food, to ourselves, to our homes, to the world. Life can become streamlined. Day to day, month to month, year to year, time passes. It's crazy to think about, and sometimes that's why we avoid it. But when we do, it grounds us, and it dawns on us what matters and what really doesn't so much.

“Future generations do not vote; they have no political or financial power; they cannot challenge our decisions.” -Our Common Future

Our connections are what make life meaningful, so what if we took just a few more minutes of the day to reflect on them? Sustainability can unite us, rather than politically divide us. It's about human health, and collaborating to protect the wellbeing of ourselves and future generations. As a society we are deeply connected to one another, and to the generations to come. It's heavy, but sometimes it takes heavy ideas to connect people for collective action. So we ask ourselves,

"Are we being good ancestors?" -Jonas Salk