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Pitch

With iCarbon, selecting the brands and activities with the lowest CO2 emissions just got easier! Know your score and change key habits.


Description

Summary

[Problem]

  • Current carbon footprint calculators fail to provide actionable suggestions that can be tracked over time

 

[Our Solution: iCarbon]

iCarbon is a simple and engaging software application (web & mobile) that allows people to see the sources of their CO2 emissions, select low emission alternatives and track the reduction of their personal carbon footprint.

  • capture the consumption data for each person
  • associate the consumption data with the CO2 emission scores of individual companies
  • translate the result into actionable graphs, tips and information.

 

[We can turn inertia into action]

The most comprehensive reference of CO2 impact aggregates individual economic activity. We build on the work of Weber & Matthews, who found that "total household income and expenditure [are] the best predictors of both domestic and international portions of the total CO2 impact". They calculated CO2 emissions across 14 consumption categories such as food, private transport, housing, and utilities which suggested that if we knew each person's consumption data, then we could calculate their household carbon footprint.

[Technology]

iCarbon uses the environmental assessment data of specific brands, merchants, or products provided by services like AMEE, and GoodGuide to measure personal carbon footprint. The calculations are based upon payment or shopping data obtained through partnerships with personal financial productivity software like Mint or Levelmoney.

[Prototype]

We have been gathering user feedback on our iCarbon prototype for the past month. In addition, we conducted 40+ in-person interviews with target users to fit the design into their busy lifestyle. Try the demo at yes.icarbon.


Our team:

Tianyu Wu - technologist & designer

Ajay Revels - design researcher & UX consultant

 



Category of the action

Reducing consumption


What actions do you propose?

"Because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is long lived, it can effectively lock Earth and future generations into a range of impacts, some of which could become very severe. Therefore, emissions reductions choices made today matter in determining impacts experienced not just over the next few decades, but in the coming centuries and millennia." -- Climate Stabilization Targets (2010)

We learned from discussions with "green" consumers, non-green consumers and environmental  activists that they needed very specific supports that would enable them to develop new pro-environmental behaviors and to provide the credibility to influence others. We propose that iCarbon will help people transition to, and establish new behavioral norms, by delivering functionality that aims to;

  1. Make me feel informed
    • itemize all my purchases and show me which product is good or bad for emissions
    • reveal the hidden sources of my emissions
    • reveal the hidden emissions impact of my choices and activities

 

2. Make deciding easy

  • help me choose the low carbon option by offering three concrete suggestions
  • show me the easiest step I can take to disrupt a long standing habit

 

3. Give me reachable goals

  • challenge me to commit to changes by showing me the amount of impact I will have
  • reward me to reaching a goal

 

4. Give me examples to follow

  • compare me with people similar to me who are making the same changes
  • compare me with people from non-developed nations who have low emission scores
  • compare me to regional and country averages 

 

5. Help me change policy

  • connect me to transparency campaigns for corporate CO2 emissions


Who will take these actions?

While many people, from product designers to consumers to waste management professionals are curious (and confused) about calculating their carbon footprint, they become easily discouraged after using just one of the 100s of online calculators. We learned that calculators created by WWF, Carbon Story, Berkeley Coolclimate, EPA, Nature Conservancy and others, suffer from tedious questionnaires, high abandonment rates and unclear benchmarks. They fall short of inspiring significant behavioral change even amongst people who are motivated to reduce their CO2 emission levels.

1. Potential Actors:

Long-term, we expect widespread use of tools like iCarbon. But, for purposes of creating a testable prototype, we selected three key roles as our target iCarbon users, from a longer list of potential users.

2. Target Actors

Our initial target users of iCarbon will be eco-activists, "green" consumers and science journalists. These actors are intrinsically motivated to assess their carbon footprint and they are able to influence others within their jobs (Greenpeace, 350.org), their communities of practice (writing, activism) and their personal networks. These actors will share their iCarbon results, they will challenge others to use the tool and they will pressure corporations to publish their CO2 emissions. Here are some of their voices:

“ I would want to compare my carbon footprint to other people in my region (in the US and other places) and find out if mine was higher.” -- green consumer

"I want to know the easiest action I can take to reduce my carbon footprint. Is it more impactful to simply support a campaign or purchase a more environment friendly brand?” -- eco-activist

“When people are confronted with the fact that their neighbors are changing, it makes it easier for them to follow suit. Shame can be a strong motivator." -- eco-activist

3. Target Persona

Although our target actors differ in many ways, their need for an easy to use carbon footprint calculator is the same.


Where will these actions be taken?

Research shows that the developed nations have the highest GHG emissions and the highest personal carbon footprints.

Actions_footprint

The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.Our goal is to engage citizens of the US and the EU, particularly those who live in the large metropolitan areas.

Because personal carbon footprint numbers are highest along the eastern and western seaboard of the US and the central countries of the EU, (link to simulation video) that is where we will focus our outreach efforts.


How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

"To stabilize the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we have to bring emissions down to a level where they can be absorbed by the oceans, plant live and the soil." -- Philippe Squarzoni. Climate Changed

[Target CO2 reductions]

That means a global reduction to 3 gigatons of carbon equivalent a year or a 75% reduction before 2050.

[CO2 reductions from iCarbon usage]

In the US, current CO2 emissions levels per capita are 19.8 mmt (million metric tonnes) which works out to about 7 tonnes per American per year.

With increased awareness of CO2 emissions sources and the ability to make low CO2 emission choices, we estimate that we can shrink personal carbon footprints and thereby reduce emissions in the US to an average of 5 (tonnes) per person, per year  by 2020


What are other key benefits?

The additional benefits that derive from use of the iCarbon tool include:

Environmental

  • decreased demand for fossil fuels used in manufacturing and transportation
  • decreased demand for forest products
  • increased incentive to plant trees

 

Social

  • increased pressure upon corporate emitters of GHG to lower their emissions
  • increased empowerment of individuals to affect climate change
  • increased awareness of a low carbon footprint lifestyle
  • increased appreciation for the interconnectedness of human activities
  • increased interest in "slow food" and use of bicycles for transit
  • increased effectiveness of carbon footprint reduction campaigns


What are the proposal’s costs?

Projected negative consequences from activities that drastically reduce GHGs and personal carbon footprint will be primarily economic. As demand for high CO2 emitting products, services and processes decline, so could there be a parallel decline in economic production. As companies lose revenue we could see such things as:

  • manufacturing, factory and business closures
  • loss of jobs in the US and many developed countries
  • loss of funding for key state and local services
  • political panic
  • civil unrest


Time line


Related proposals

Ecobehavior rewards
Give to customers a way to know which products create less greenhouse gases and encourage them to purchase them by giving them rewards.https://www.climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/1300207/planId/1309205
This proposal seeks to surface the environmental performance of products and incentivize customers to purchase them.


Spoutrain
Provide measures to people so that they can make smart decisions in their buying process and have an effective impact on climate change
https://www.climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/1300210/planId/1305326
This proposal seeks to make CO2 footprint data available as part of product packaging.

Normative
an app for ethical consumption. By scanning your purchase, Normative visualize its and your own impact on the world.
https://www.climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/1300210/planId/1309031
this proposal also seeks to support decision making at the level of person purchases and activities.


References

1. AMEE. (API) Financial and Environmental Data On Every Company

2. Bradbury S; Middlemiss L (2014) The role of learning in sustainable communities of practice, Local Environment

3.  CDIAC. Carbon Emissions Time Series. 2013.

4. Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia. 2010

5. Froehlich J., Dillahunt T., (2009) UbiGreen: investigating a mobile tool for tracking and supporting green transportation habits. CHI '09 Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Pages 1043-1052. ACM New York, NY, USA ©2009

6. Fogg, B.J. (2008). “Mass interpersonal persuasion: An early view of a new phenomenon”. In: Proc. Third International
Conference on Persuasive Technology, Persuasive 2008. Berlin: Springer.

7. Fogg, BJ. (2009) Creating Persuasive Technologies: An Eight-Step Design Process. Persuasive’09, April 26-29, Claremont, California, USA.

8. Goodguide. Find safe, healthy, green, & ethical products based on scientific ratings.

9. Kay, S.,Global Carbon Emissions Infographic 2011

10. Laskey, A., Kavazovic, O. Opower. Energy Efficiency through behavioral science and technology. XRDS. Summer 2010, Vol. 17, No. 4

11. LevelMoney. A simple, real-time picture of your daily  purchases.

12. Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., Feinberg, G. & Howe, P. Global Warming’s Six Americas, September 2012. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT.

13. Mint. See where every dime goes and make money decisions you feel good about.

14. National CO2 Emissions from Fossil-Fuel Burning, Cement Manufacture, and Gas Flaring: 1751-2008.

15. Squarzoni, Philippe. Climate Changed. Abrams ComicArts (2014)

16. Weber, CL., Matthews HS., (2008) Quantifying the global and distributional aspects of American household carbon footprint. Ecological Economics, Vol 66, Issues 2–3, 15 June 2008, Pages 379–391