Sustain NYC is a concept for an iOS application to measure and encourage New Yorkers’ sustainability efforts. In this app, New Yorkers can log their sustainable daily activities, see what others are doing, and sign up for challenges. Through a proposed partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, the app would be promoted City-wide and be able to pull in data from the City government.

Teammates: Isis Golbourne, Richard Fabian

Methods Used

  • User Interviews
  • Screener Survey
  • Persona
  • User Flows
  • Usability Testing
  • Wireframes
  • Prototypes

The Challenge

Many New Yorkers are concerned about the environment and global warming, and desire to live more sustainably. Whether it’s recycling, composting, biking, or choosing a reusable bottle, they practice sustainability on a daily basis. Despite their efforts, there is little way for them to know if they are making an actual impact, and how many others are participating. Furthermore, City rules (recycling for example) are often obtuse and complicated.


Defining Our Users
We set out to find a broad sampling of New Yorkers who cared about the environment. We sent out an interview screener via social media and had a wide range of responses, from those who barely recycled to self-professed sustainability gurus. After ruling out some of the extremes, we focused on the moderate users.

User Research & Synthesis
Our initial hypothesis was that the average New Yorker who cares about the environment finds it difficult to practice sustainability and has to make compromises which lead to feelings of guilt. We interviewed 7 users, to get an understanding of the role sustainability plays in their daily lives, as well as their motivations and pain points.

After synthesizing our interview data, we learned that our user’s main pain point was not guilt, rather a sense of uncertainty—and even skepticism— about what difference all their efforts make.

Our research synthesis led us to develop our persona, Tina. Tina is a young single professional in New York. She cares about the environment and her impact on it. She incorporates sustainable practices in her daily life such as recycling, composting, and carrying reusable bottles and food containers.

Problem Statement
Many New Yorkers are concerned about the environment, and incorporate sustainable activities in their daily routines (e.g., recycling, carrying reusable containers and bags, and composting).

Tina makes sustainable daily choices, but is often unsure if her efforts even matter. How might we help Tina see the impact of her efforts, and reduce her uncertainty and skepticism?

The Concept
The Sustain NYC app is a source for local sustainability information and best practices. On the app, Tina can log her sustainability efforts, much like an exercise or diet tracker. Tina can challenge herself to be more sustainable by signing up for challenges, such as “No Straws”, which encourages her to stop using plastic straws.
The app will pull in real-time data about city recycling, as well as the logged efforts of our users. Tina will be able to see what her fellow New Yorkers are doing and be inspired by them.

Partnership Opportunity
We knew we wanted to not just create an app but inspire a movement, pushing New Yorkers to do more and feel proud of their efforts. In order to reach the most people, we needed a partner with media access to New Yorkers, as well as real-time data about city programs and recycling. We focused in on City agencies and found an ideal partner in The NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. The Mayor’s Office has an initiative called GreeNYC, with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% by the year 2050. GreeNYC has a great media campaign with a lovable pigeon mascot, as well as a website full of useful tips. One thing they do not have is a mobile app, so we saw our solution as a companion app to their initiatives.

Ideation & Design
Our guiding question: How might we help Tina see the difference she is making, thereby encouraging her efforts? To answer, we embarked on several rounds of sketching and ideation. We tested paper prototypes and decided on a design from our favorite sketches.

paper sketches

Onboarding Screens

Onboarding Screens

Logging Recycling Screens

Logging Recycling

Task Flows
Below are the task flows for 1)creating an account 2)Signing up for a challenge and 3)Logging an activity.