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Designing a Sustainable Experience

By Dan Barczak

How do you deliver a top-notch experience for your client while also being mindful of the demands of changing consumer opinion?

“67% of US consumers from Gen Z have stopped purchasing (or would consider doing so) from a company that stood for something or behaved in a way that doesn’t align with their ethos.” – DoSomething Strategic, May 2018

It’s no longer a differentiator to be a sustainable product or an environmentally-conscious company. It’s the standard. With new brands joining in the movement every day, from consignment in fashion to elimination of single-use plastics in packaging, it’s top of mind for consumers and brands. 

So when creating a tailor-made experience for the masses, the question becomes: how do you create an experience that’s uniquely custom to the user, without creating the waste that can be associated with it? We identified and tested four key ways during our recent Oral-B iO product launch and experience at CES 2020.

1. Make it paperless (or compostable).

This is possibly the easiest step in adapting your experience to be more environmentally friendly. If asking users to fill out a survey, enter a drawing, or leave feedback, let them do it on a reusable electronic device. If your experience requires containers, napkins, or cups, source materials that are compostable. Creating a sustainable experience at CES with a global organization like Procter & Gamble (who also has very ambitious sustainability goals for 2030), requires awareness and intentional choices. P&G needs its brands to meet performance expectations while helping solve some of the most complex challenges facing our world. Something as simple as asking users to try a new toothbrush needed choices surrounding it made with respect to P&G’s larger sustainability vision. Details matter.

Compostable paper cups by World Centric used in our Smile Station for users to rinse their mouth.

2. Anticipate potential waste from the user-experience.

If your experience requires a user to work their way through a task, anticipate areas where they may not be as mindful as you’d like. Little signs to help remind users to only take what they need (whether print materials or napkins) not only will help keep waste down, but can make your experience more affordable for the client as well. For example, water efficiency is a crucial initiative for P&G and brands like Oral-B,  so we made sure to address mindful water consumption during the experience.

Oral-B Smile Station Interior

Signs in our Smile Station reminding users to conserve water.

3. Take sustainability backstage

Designing an experience that’s sustainable doesn’t end with what the user can see. There is a lot of setup and work behind the scenes that can also benefit from being more mindful. In recent work with P&G, the company chose to forgo any single-use plastic bottles, investing in reusable water bottles for their staff while they worked behind-the-scenes. As a brand, be willing to live your sustainable experiences with true integrity by integrating it into all aspects. The initiatives folks don’t see are often just as (if not more) important to the overall impact of the experience.

The Oral-B Smile Station rolling into CES.

4. Create an experience that will live on.

Lastly, when designing an experience for a client, think about the life of the project and the displays themselves. Think through the possible emissions of online deliveries, out of town vendors, as well as team travel to do in-progress check-ins. Sometimes creating a multi-use experience can cut down on the overall environmental impact of producing the items needed and the footprint of bringing all the pieces together. While it can be hard to get a client to invest in more durable materials, you can off-set those costs with an experience that can travel to multiple events. Extending the life of your project and getting others to experience what you created beyond its original lifetime is another angle of sustainability. Give it legs.

In the end, we all have a responsibility to be mindful of our individual impact on the planet. Whether it’s through life at home or our professional output, it’s often the small or unseen decisions that can have the greatest impact. They may not feel like the most creative decisions or the most visible, tangible impact on the work, but your choices, large or small, combined with respect for the brand and the world in which it exists, can get a step closer to where we should be.

For more on our experience at CES with Oral-B and the launch of their game-changing iO technology and why iO was awarded Best Innovation 2020 Honoree, view our case study here.

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