Master's Thesis
Sustainable Design
Service Design
Systems Thinking
Messaging Strategy
Explore barriers that prevent the average consumer from adopting more sustainable behaviors; develop and demonstrate how UX design tools and processes can be used to improve engagement and drive sustainable behaviors.
There is commonly a disconnect between climate crisis messaging and the individual-level solutions proposed to American consumers, and the reality of how consumers experience sustainable choices in their daily lives. The goal of this project was to examine limited participation in sustainable behaviors as a problem of poor user experience, and demonstrate how UX design tools and a better understanding of common barriers can help designers create more engaging sustainable products and services.
For context, the research phase involved secondary research on the psychology of decision-making, examination of the communication landscape around climate issues and sustainability, and case studies showing UX and communication strategies and their effectiveness in this space.
The project followed the design thinking process developed and popularized by the Stanford and IDEO (Empathize-Define-Ideate-Prototype-Test), and used a number of UX research tools such as user surveys, observation, ethnographic interviews, and journey mapping.
Using a specific case study (encouraging residential composting*) to demonstrate the application of the process, user surveys and observation were used to better understand the target audience - those who are aware and care about the climate crisis, but whose actions may not reflect their values. This helped to show that there can be a variety of values that factor into daily decision making, and a number of barriers preventing even climate-aware individuals from acting sustainably, including time/inconvenience, access/logistics, cost, and more.

*More details on the related composting project are detailed here.
The research highlighted the realities of a potential user flow, and emphasized the need to understand consumers’ priorities and possible practical and accessibility barriers that exist for even the most eco-minded consumers. The final set of tools resulting from the process, including a set of “sustainable behavior personas” and a specialized consumer journey map, were intended to serve as templates that could be used and customized for other projects with a goal of designing for sustainable behavior change.
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