WE DESIGN TECH
Live fast, die young: a reminder app to start living slow and sustainably
Life is plastic, it's (not) fantastic
Let's start off with some statistics.
90% of plastic waste that humans have generated over a lifetime has never been recycled. In fact, it would take over 400 years for plastic waste to degrade. And as a result, 8 million metric tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean every year.
So much for "saving the turtles", right? 🐢
The sensible and most logical solution would be to start using reusable products, like shopping bags. But the product cost of cotton reusable bags is much higher than plastic ones. It would take 131 uses before reusable cotton shopping bags offset and reduce 1 plastic bag's impact on climate change.
With around 24 hours to propose a solution that encourages the practice of sustainable lifestyles, the team worked in tandem during all parts of the UX process, including R&D, prototyping, coming up with a business plan, and pitching to a live panel of judges. Between sleeping at 3am and the free food delivery voucher, I'm not entirely sure what was more unsustainable.
Ultimately, I was tasked with fleshing out the user workflow, coming up with the UI design, putting together and presenting the clickable prototype. We wanted to go above and beyond the scope of our project and incude a few bonuses to our UI, which included implementing iOS widgets for mobile, as well as dark and light mode.
This was one of my favourite hackathon projects to work on—not only did we truly believe our app idea would really drive home the message to practice living sustainably, but everyone else on the judging panel did as well. It's a really fulfilling feeling knowing that industry professionals believe in the adoption of your idea, despite the largest hurdle being non-profit.
Discovery, research, ideation, prototyping, presenting
Anna Chang, Syeda Nudrat Zehra, Winnie Lao
24 hours (1 day)
The problem 😢
The thought of living a sustainable lifestyle is often glamorous, but forgotten. Reusable products like tote bags, water bottles, and tumblers are bought, then kept unused. The upfront cost of producing reusable products outweighs single-use plastics by a landslide, and the manufacturing process contributes more to global warming. However, plastic bags are rarely recycled. Therefore, to offset its carbon footprint without creating non-biodegradable waste, a reusable bag must actually be reused.
Hackathon prompt 🤖
Based on the theme of a circular economy, propose a sustainable technology practice and/or solution that anyone could follow whether it's within a company, at home, work, or school. Your solution could refine an already existing sustainable practice, or could be entirely new.
The solution ✨
Our team is a strong advocate for practice makes progress, so we designed a mobile application entitled "MemoRE" which is a play on words of 'memory' and 'reduce, reuse, recycle'. MemoRE is your daily reminder app to assist you in setting sustainable lifestyle goals, while donating to charity at the same time.
What were we up against?
To put this in simple terms, a dumpster fire (really).
In Canada, the plastics economy is relatively linear, with around 87% of plastic waste ends up in landfills or creeps its way into the environment. Plastics are either recycled (this is the best case scenario), incinerated with energy recovery, landfilled, or leaked into the environment, resulting in a $7.8 billion loss in unrecovered plastics. By 2030, it's estimated that this number could rise to $11.1 billion.
How can we transform Canada's waste economy from linear to more circular?
Our scope 🔭
We surveyed 32 people through an online form, and followed up with an additional social media poll from our direct network with 57 respondents. Findings suggest that Canadians aged 18-25 find general forgetfulness to be their main pain point when it comes to sustainable living.
Currently, our users rely putting reusable items near the door or in the car where they're easily accessible. And still, more than half of participants forget.
The most efficient way to gain market adoption is to target the generation of the future, Generation Z
Our strategy for targetting a younger audience stems from the urgency of the state our environment is in. The importance of sustainability should be established in the generation that will shape our future.
Aged 16-26, Gen Z comprises of 25% of the Canadian population (9 million), and they are also the most willing to pay a premium for sustaintability-minded products.
In addition, 74% of Canadians would adopt technology that would help them become more eco-friendly.
It wouldn't make sense to develop an app that is already used by our target audience, so we conducted a competitive analysis and looked at the two most popular sustainability reminder apps to see where we could fill in the missing gaps while addressing our user's pain points at the same time.
01 / SET GOALS
A habit starts by setting goals and expectations for yourself. It's easy to jump head first when it comes to sustainability, so users need a way to start setting realistic goals they can follow day-to-day.
03 / VIEW PROGRESS
To track if there's been a difference, users need some sort of performance metric to refer to in order to challenge themselves! Not only does this spark a competitive attitude, but it's super fulfilling to reach a milestone.
02 / REMIND YOURSELF
With the hustle and bustle of university life, it's easy to be forgetful. Users need a way to set reminders for themselves easily (this applies to both sustainability and school!)
04 / DONATE TO CHARITY
Sustainability is often associated with taking care of the earth, so our team plans on donating to the user's charity of choice to give back. The better the performance on the user's end, the more the app gives back!
Don't make me think
I relied heavily on design decisions such as using various tones of green to keep the sustainaibility theme consistent, and balanced it out with vibrant corals to signify major actions that can be done within the app.
I kept to neutral background colours against dark font text for easy readability. Additional accessibility options like increasing font size are included within the settings page. Touchpoints on the app are large enough for the user to comfortably make decisions on mobile.
A quick walkthrough the onboarding process and general user workflow can be viewed to the right.
Boot up, start up!
MemoRE (pronounced "memory") is a compound of the two words "memory" and "reduce, reuse, recycle & reminder" which is a very literal description of the core functionality of our mobile app: to help users remember the three Rs of sustainability.
From the beginning upon launch, the user is greeted with a landing page where they'll be able to log in with an account or sign up via email. If the user wishes to connect to their account using social media, they may also do so using Facebook, Google, or Apple ID.
Choose your own path
For new users creating an account, they'll be taken through 3 questions to help them onboard and tailor their experience using the app in order to help them reach their personal goals regarding sustainable living.
Users will be able to select the types of reusable items that they own and want to track usage of, they'll be able to set up reminders, and finally will be able to select a charity of choice (from the list provided) to support.
Recycle, remind, repeat
Right from the home page, users will be able to view all of their scheduled and upcoming reminders, and are also able to view their overall progress throughout the day.
Users will be able to add or delete reminders as well if their daily goals change, and as a bonus, are able to see a daily environmental fact to help motivate them to achieve their goals.
In addition, users will be able to track their progress from when they first began using the app to see how they've been fairing long term.
Lastly, the app's crown jewel lies in a concept called Eco Points. Eco Points are an in-app point system which relies on the continuous achievements of clearing reminders and tasks. Users will be able to exchange these Eco Points from points to monetary value to donate to the charity of their choice.
Through our social network survey, we found that 94% of people check the weather before going outside.
By placing the MemoRE widget next to the weather widget, users would be instantly reminded to check off their to-do list while checking the weather at the same time.
To make use of the adaptive display implemented in iOS and other mobile interfaces today, we designed a set of two widgets in light mode and dark mode to blend seamlessly with the current iOS user interface.
Literally everything exists 😳
Because sustainability has been such a hot topic in the past decade, while doing our research I personally found it difficult to come up with a solution that didn't already exist. We were looking into big ideas that haven't been done before, to minor tweaks to existing solutions. However, we came to the conclusion that if you want to make an impact on a large audience, you want your idea to be clear, concise, and meaningful without all the fancy marketing jargon, which is what our team ended up going with as our final solution.
Unexpected outcomes 😱
Because of the simplicity of our app concept, our team unexpected won the best outreach award, which is awarded to the team who focuses on market reach to the largest audience, and strategizes a plan to market the importance of sustainability to Gen Z through social media platforms and their solution! This was extremely surprising, as we found our app to concept to seem very common and non-innovative, however, the judging panel thought otherwise. So this was very fulfilling to hear!
Concluding thoughts 🔚
The completion of this hackathon gave me the ability to really buckle down and believe in the simplicity of UX: not everything has to be flashy, fancy, or the next big piece of tech—sometimes even the smallest solutions have the furthest reach.