People make choices every day, and these decisions have a direct impact on the environment. By choosing daily what we eat, how we get to places and what activities we do, we significantly affect our carbon footprint. When talking about promoting low carbon lifestyle, sharing the knowledge about sustainability and importance of daily choices, we cannot underestimate the significance of communication. Especially when it comes to visual communication, as it is an influential method for engaging people around important topics.
When one wants to affect the behavior of people, the first step towards it is to make reality visible and easily understood. The world is complex, and people have to make many decisions every day, relying on their own judgment, and not having time to analyze every step. Also, carbon emissions are not easy to understand, because carbon is not visible and people struggle to keep in mind that it is directly linked to their daily choices.
Informational graphics not only makes data visible to people but also helps to deliver the message effectively. The more one can explore and analyze the data, the more impact it will have on the behavior. Graphs, pie charts, and diagrams are crucial for engaging the user, building trust and high level of support among the readers.
Case study: Kotihiili
In spring 2017 The Natural Step, as part of Fiksu Kalasatama Smart&Clean pilot program launched Kotihiili experiment. Kotihiili was a three-week long project for Kalasatama residents to analyze their carbon efficiency and behavior. During the project, informational graphics helped participants to have a better idea about the impacts of different daily choices and comparisons between different emission sources, such as eating beef versus eating tofu, compared to a number of kilometers driven by car, a number of hours heating up a sauna or using washing machine for a period of time.
Comments that were received from Kotihiili participants about infographics included suggestions for improvement, especially in the way everyday emissions were presented. For example, participants would want not only to have access to their personal data displayed in a visual form but also to see comparisons of how they are doing in relation to others, as well as to a daily average. Participants also noted that visualizations could have been even better if they, similar to blog posts illustrations, would have simplified content and emphasized key results.
Informational graphics, produced during Kotihiili experiment, carry also high content marketing value for social media and other web communications. For example, posts on social media help to reach many more people, creating an even bigger impact.
There is an immense potential for reducing carbon footprint through effective visual communication of daily choice effects on the environment. Infographics have the power to cut through the clutter of daily information received by people and engage the audience around important issues. Access to endlessly floating information from mobile devices and shorter attention spans make visual content essential for grabbing attention.
However, despite all the opportunities, the role of informational graphics and visualizations in promoting low carbon lifestyle seems to be underutilized. Often carbon footprint communications are missing engaging visual content, and therefore also missing available opportunities.