Living sustainably should be simple. Why, then, is it so hard? Z.RO is a concept app based on the principle that building a zero - or low waste - lifestyle is a matter of modifying our current habits.
By providing a consolidated tool to discover sustainable habits, keep on track of their implementation, and receive encouragement to stick it through, Z.RO guides and motivates users to make a significant impact through simple changes.
As a society, it's no secret that we produce far too much waste. From food, to plastic, to water - the list goes on. To some, this is simply the cost of a modern civilization.
Coupled with the tendency to think that action on the individual level won't make much of a difference, we’ve created a dialogue that reducing waste in a meaningful way is too complicated, expensive, and out-of-reach.
- Isolate sustainable living into simple, achievable habits
- Motivate people to both adopt and maintain sustainable habits
- Communicate changes on a personal, rather than abstract level
My first avenue was secondary research - I wanted to better understand the disconnect between knowledge and action as it related to sustainable consumption.
The negative environmental impact of our current lifestyle and consumption habits is well documented and widely published.
While simple solutions exist to combat this impact, impersonal stats, figures and doomsday speech do not incite people to make changes.
Research has shown that giving people opportunity and concrete solutions incites greater action and makes a larger, lasting impact.
The final part of the discovery stage were my interviews. I interviewed 10 people, including peers and acquaintances of varying life stages, but who were generally conscientious and tech savvy.
I was looking for what current habits the interviewees had adopted, what motivated them to introduce sustainable habits, what deterred them from making further changes, and what changes, if any, they would be willing to make in the future.
- The cost, real or imagined, of living sustainably
- The convenience, or inconvenience, of making sustainable changes
- Autonomy or lack of autonomy in making purchasing decisions
- The desire to make changes, contrasted with not knowing what changes to make
Now that the challenge had been explored and validated, it was time to bring my potential users and the problem into more concrete terms.
Can users find the sustainable habits that suit them and their lifestyle?
Is there a mechanism in place to remind users to carry out reoccurring habits?
Are there contextual prompts to encourage users to continue implementing sustainable habits?
With the challenges top-of-mind, I began piecing together what my solution would look like.
Bringing it to Life
I then brought my design to life by injecting visual design components into a hi-fi prototype.
When thinking about the general feel of the app, I wanted the tone to be personal and encouraging.
To do so, I included a contextual greeting (i.e “Good Morning” if the user open the app in the A.M.) and a motivational quote. This sets the tone for the overall usage of Z.RO, giving users a bit of delight when they enter the app.
I knew that progress tracking would be an important consideration as I was designing the app and speaking to potential users.
One way that I integrated this into the app was by way of streaks. If a user completes a habit consecutively without missing a scheduled day, they build their streak and that habit stays in the “green”. If they begin to slack on a habit, it enters the yellow zone, and eventually the red zone where their streak is reset to zero.
I wanted feedback to play a significant role in the functionality of the app beyond just streaks. I designed a system of notifications that would give users acknowledgement of their progress and achievements as they beat streaks, finished challenges, and reached milestones.
I knew that for users like Lauren, community was an important part of her sustainable lifestyle. I also knew that within the scope of the app that I wouldn't be able to answer every possible question there would be about zero waste.
To solve for both challenges, I created a community forum within the challenges section of the app in order for users to share advice, offer encouragement, and ask questions.
Kill your darlings: This was my project where I had to let an idea die. However it taught me that doing so often leads to a better solution.
Research: I would have done more research on behavioural psychology – specifically around habit forming – in order to further innovate on my motivational mechanisms.
Future business model: e-commerce integration for products recommended through the app, but I would need to be careful of scope creep.