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'Gaia' is a carbon footprint tracking app that helps the user reduce their greenhouse gas emissions one meal at a time. We help users visualize the impact their eating habits have on the planet by gamifing the app. As users gradually reduce their carbon emissions, a virtual tree would grow in the app. This app was ideated and prototype during Hack @ Brown 2018. Please click here to see the final prototype!

How can we help users reduce their CO2 emission?

Design Challenge

  • What are various ways we could help reduce CO2 emission?
  • How do we use story-telling method to make hard numbers comprehensible and fun for users?
  • What are the cupcake (immediate), birthday cake (near future), and wedding cake (long-term goal) options?

The Team

  • Jeremy Wilder (Data Analyst)
  • Matthew Barnett (Data Analyst)
  • Mimi Fang (UX Designer, Visual Designer)
  • Ivy Lim (UX Designer, Visual Designer)
  • Find a common topic to work on for 22hours together.
  • Meet new people to work with!
  • Combine data and visual storytelling to develop a working prototype.
Brown Hackathon 01. 28. 2017 1AM. Tired and hungry, but motivated!
Photo Credit to Brown Hackathon Staff

Design Research

The two analysts in our team had already researched population and emissions data before coming to hackathon. The data spreadsheet can be found here. After taking a closer look at the spreadsheet that contained data of CO2 emission due to transportation, energy, and food consumption, we decided to focus on carbon dioxide emission due to meat production. We wanted to come up with a solution so that reducing meat consumption would lead not only lead to a change in user's lifestyle, but also help the environment.

Target Users

List of target users A,B, and C

Design Ideation

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Our group spend most of the first day brainstorming ideas for the app and discussing possible features. We decided to gamify the app in the end too keep users engaged for a long time, provide visual context for users to see progress, and produce an app that is both simple and clear.


  • User inputs daily meat intake
  • Virtual tree that shows progress and motivates user
  • Streaks that would lead to bonus points
  • Visually pleasing user interface

One of the challenges that our team faced was coming up with the back-end algorithm that correctly weighted points based on actual greenhouse gas emissions. How much meat equals how much CO2 emitted? After some research, Jeremy created a weighted distribution of points that corresponds to the actual emissions and then translated that into a specific amount of points that would be used in the app.

Design Prototype

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Mimi and I did quick paper sketches individually on potential layout of the app screens. We then came together to create a paper sketch of all the screens necessary in the app. We discussed our final decisions with Matthew and Jeremy.

    Visuals that had to be designed :

  • Meat types (pork, lamb, chicken, seafood)
  • Seed progression to trees
  • Onboarding screens with pain points

Design Reflection

I am so glad I went to Hack @ Brown 2018. It was such a great opportunity for me to meet new people and collaborate on a project together. I'm thankful for the great teamwork we had and the constructive feedbacks we got from the judges. Although our team stayed up all night and was so tired the next day, we all learned so much in a short period of time!

    I learned the following...

  • If you don't know what's going on, inform your teammates as soon as possible. Waiting until the end is not going to help anyone.
  • Make sure all teammates know what's going on. Try to communicate as efficiently as possible.
  • I love working with people I haven't met before! Gaining new insights is wonderful.