Plant a Seed: encouraging a sustainable lifestyle


Fall 2017

Transition Design

Team: Julia Ainbinder, Kevin Gao, Emily Mongilio, Jeong Min Seo, Raphael Weikart

My Role: User Research, Visual Design, Motion Graphics



Pittsburgh's community is filled with wicked problems ranging from affordable housing to clean air. Plant a Seed focuses on Pittsburgh's education system; a higher quality of public education leads to informed and active citizens, which shifts the mindset of sustainable living to be the norm. Our goal is to create an intervention that takes the first step in creating a brighter future for Pittsburgh.



Our main stakeholders were children at first because we believed that incorporating sustainable curriculum early on in academia would essentially "plant a seed" of good habits to foster a community that would positively influence the city. However, with the limitations of our project and resources, we narrowed our scope to college students, specifically Carnegie Mellon students since they are within our capable resources. The goal with this was to utilize our peers to gain more information on the awareness and impact of sustainable practices in our society. Our interventions with college students would guide our research questions for the elementary school students.

This exercise also utilizes Max Neef's Universal Needs to compare and contrast the needs being fulfilled by different stakeholders in the present day and the future. This helped identify the problems within education we could intervene in.


Mapping out Possible Futures

The preferred futures timeline shows present day events and utopian future events in 2050 based on STEEP forces (social, technological, environmental, economical, and political). We were able to backcast to the present to identify what would happen along the way. This informed our intervention by showing us what our ideal future would look like.


Three Horizons Model

The Three Horizons Model of Change was used to map our preferred future with more depth and specificity. By utilizing the timeline, we dove deeper into the middle ground areas, the events that needed to happen to get from the present to the ideal state. This model grounded our ideas about education and gave us a good starting point to build off existing ideas that supported sustainability in the present.

H1 - What's broken now and what's worth keeping from the present?

H2 - How might we bridge between paradigms?

H3 - Where is the evidence of the future now and what's the hopeful future?


The Experience

Our intervention includes a deck of sustainability cards, Plant a Seed branded stickers, an on-boarding guide, and steps for the digital experience. The deck of cards include four categories, Facts, Hacks, Plants, and Seeds.

Carnegie Mellon students receive the deck and read the cards given to them. They learn about sustainability and try to emulate the experiences in the real world. While doing this, the students keep stickers to further reinforce the idea of planting a good habit. Afterwards, the students share the box with another student, starting the cycle over again, and increasing the number of "Seeds" planted.


Card Experience

Facts: A bit about our impact on the planet

Hacks: Suggestions for sustainable living and places that can help you make an impact

Plants: Ways Carnegie Mellon is already helping to reduce our footprint

Seeds: Contribute your own "Hacks" by using the blank cards in the deck to write and draw your sustainable habits.


On-Boarding Guide

This is the cycle of events intended for the user that acquires the Plant a Seed kit. The symbols for the four categories are inspired by the regular deck of cards. The on-boarding process guides users through the card deck and leads them to the digital part of the experience.


Digital Experience

Students around campus activate a specific geofilter on Snapchat that starts the experience. The geofilter guides students to a selected location on campus that practices sustainability using a live motion tracker. This gives students an opportunity to learn about existing sustainable resources that are on campus. After students arrive at a location, the geofilter unlocks a unique border that reveals even more information about the location. This digital Snapchat experience is the bridge between learning about sustainability and seeing it in action.

Along with the experience, users have the ability to share their own stories onto the curated Plant a Seed story. This brings forth more collaboration within the community and contributes towards the overall awareness of sustainability.


Geofilter experience

Geofilter experience

Sharing personal experiences

Sharing personal experiences


Moving Forward

Plant a Seed hopes to reach Carnegie Mellon students around campus to spread awareness about sustainable methods and resources. We want to see the usability of our intervention and apply it to elementary school students to create a future where sustainability becomes the norm.