The Journey of Water
Designer, Researcher
10 weeks
Intercept Interviews, Systems Mapping,
Visual Design
A four-part journey that aims bring grocery store customers along to raise awareness, change their behaviors and empower them to participate in water conservation efforts.
1. Arrival at the Store
Posters & Wayfinding System Geared towards Awareness
2. Water Cost Labels
3. Saved Water Calculator
4. Flow App
Collect water savings, convert into travel mileage
Intercept Interviews
We started by conducting intercept interviews to 10 individuals, asking them these 2 questions:

Do you know the current drought situation in California?
Do you know how much water it takes to produce meat?

Even though drought seasons are stretching longer periods of time, and getting more extreme, only 2/10 individuals were aware that California is still in a drought.

90% of our participants were also unaware that meat production is an extremely water intensive activity. Which brings us to the problem that we were trying to tackle—raising awareness to the drought situation and encouraging the reduction of meat intake.
Understanding the System
We created concept and mind maps to help us visualize the multiple sources and agents involved in this. Through this, we learned that our usage of water is divided into three parts:

Domestic, Agricultural and Industrial.

Understanding the Problem
From here, we discovered that many parts of our life need water. Some obvious, some hidden (diagram above). Even the products that we use everyday has hidden water footprint* involved with virtual water trades**.

And the culprit contributing to massive water usage is Agricultural.

* the amount of fresh water used in the production or supply of the goods/services used by a  person or group.

** the hidden flow of water if food or other commodities are traded from one place to another.
Identifying the Problem
And the reason for the massive water consumption in Agriculture is because of the food we consume: Meats.
The reason for this massive water usage lies in the food that the animals consume. Corn and soybeans—which are typically used to feed them—are extremely water-intensive.
Understanding Behaviors
We interviewed four people of various dietary lifestyles—vegetarians and meat lovers—to understand their thoughts around food and impact.

And the key things we learned are that:

"I don’t go beyond what’s in front of me. If I need a bag at the grocery store, I’ll still take it. If I don’t, then I won’t take it.”
People don't feel the urgency, and don’t think it’s their responsibility to act upon or try to make change.

There is an opportunity to educate people on the negative implications of their actions to the environment so they are more aware of the responsibility that they have.

"I played no significant part in changing the current ethical problems faced by animals and workers in factory farms.”
—Willy J
People feel discouraged because the problem is huge and their efforts are “small”.

There is an opportunity to encourage
people to continue their green initiatives so they feel their contribution to environmental change is valuable.
Collaborating for Impact
We think Whole Foods would be a great partner to collaborate with because our visions align. Moreover, Whole Foods has a close relationship with its food sources such as factories and farms, which would allow us to make significantly more impactful design solutions.

We examined how the flow of water, products and information gets to customers; and realized that if we can make this water usage information more transparent to customers, then they would be more informed and empowered to make an impact and influence the industrial chain backwards.
Understanding our Audience
We then observed and learned that there are two types of grocery shopping customers.

The first type of customers are Goal-Driven and have existing purchase goals. It's trickier to persuade them to choose differently, but awareness and acceptance might be achievable.

The second type of customers are Explorers and have no definitive purchase goals. We think there's more room to influence their purchase decisions.
Finding Leveraging Points
Subsequently, we mapped out their journey and looked for opportunities to intervene.
Their journey is split into 4 main phases:
Needfinding, Arrive at Store, Browse in Store, Check Out.
A Journey towards Impact
We created a spectrum—Awareness, Acceptance and Action—to guide our customers through the learning of this important problem. We also wanted to make sure there's are touchpoints of varying impacts so customers can be exposed to this issue, and we can provide opportunities for them to take action whenever and with whatever level they're comfortable with.
Brainstorming Solutions
We came up with a total of 30 concepts, and sought for feedback from our peers.
These were the selected concepts that had most positive feedback.
From this, we did a final selection of solutions to proceed with according. We decided by aligning which of these would align best with the intent that we had:
Transparency of information & Visualization of Impact.

We then mapped our design solutions according to the spectrum and made sure there's an opportunity for customers to learn about this problem at each phase and take action should they be ready to.
The Entire Journey
The following is a system diagram, and accompanying video to illustrate this journey and how each touchpoint incrementally adds contributes to the next.
Below is a breakdown and closer look at each of the touchpoint at the different phase of the journey.
Arrive at Store
Customers would be able to see posters all around the store that explains water usage in meat production, raising awareness for this issue.
Water Intensity Signages
As customers approach the meat stock, they would see the water intensity signages on the floor. Since the meat section is typically organized by animal sources, we mapped the intensity of water usage on the floor—from least to most water intensive.
Browse in Store
Water Cost Labels
We believe that by putting water usage information on the labels, customers will be able to make more informed decisions. By using 1000 calories as a basis for comparison, we were able to compare the efficiency of water usage between different types of foods.
With this, we developed a water efficiency rating system which will then be reflected on the meat and food labels.

We think that these labels are the most crucial touchpoint for this project. By making information more accessible, we would be able to educate and empower customers; they can compare water-efficiency of different products, make wiser purchase decisions and realize that the potential for impact and change is in themselves.
Check Out
Saved Water Calculator
When customers check out, they would also be able to see how much water they saved based on their purchases.
Flow: Collect Water Savings, Convert to Mileage
Customers will be able to create an account on the Flow app, and accumulate their water savings for a trip. We visualized it in the form of a journey, starting from where the customer is, to a national forest of their choice.

This is so that customers are able to visualize their impact, and be encouraged to continue on the water saving journey that they have embarked on.
Because of the complexity of the problem, we were aware of the need to be careful of our approach to the solution we're proposing. So, instead of focusing on an ambitious single solution, we thought that breaking it down and turning it into a journey would be more effective for behavior change.

Through talking to people, I learned that trying to enforce change isn't the best way to enact change. I realized that small incremental steps that contribute to big changes can be more powerful.
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