Harnessing technology to protect the environment

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Harnessing technology to protect the environment

Leave No Trace is a global movement that educates and empowers people to reduce waste and care for their environment.

Closer to home, Leave No Trace Brighton is a charity based in one of the UK’s favourite seaside spots. A group of Brighton locals, the team at LNT Brighton are taking action to reduce waste and protect wildlife and natural habitats in this beautiful town.

The LNT team approached Digital Detox to support the charity in creating a cool, engaging digital campaign that would attract attention and incite action. We used augmented reality and some clever design techniques to bring their vision to life online!

The upside of lockdown

Lockdown was challenging for many of us…well, for those with two legs at least. For much of the seaside’s wildlife, however, it was a chance to reclaim the ocean as a natural playground.

Brighton residents reported seeing a big increase in seals and dolphins spotted off the coast, whilst beaches were at their cleanest levels in a long while. Sadly, when the lockdown came to an end and the weather started to improve, visitors descended on Brighton, en masse, and brought their rubbish with them. They didn’t take it home again.

Brighton & Hove City Council collected a staggering 100 tonnes of rubbish from Brighton seafront in the first 17 days of June. On the weekend of 17/18th July, they collected 31 tonnes, which is the greatest amount of rubbish ever collected from Brighton Seafront.

As councils became increasingly understaffed and overstretched, much of the rubbish remained uncleared. It began blowing into the sea, littering the nearby flora and posing a risk to people, animals and the natural environment. Something needed to be done.

Taking action

The team at Leave No Trace Brighton have already worked on a few initiatives to tackle the rubbish issue on the beaches. For example, bigger bins have made a difference, but many people don’t use them and the beach is often littered with waste.

Reusable coffee cups are a common polluter - only 1 in 400 plastic coffee cups is actually able to be recycled. A third of Winter waste in Brighton is plastic coffee cups.

With these facts in mind, the team started to think about ways to take action on the waste problem. Rather than wave a stick at people to force them to take action, the group wanted to educate people kindly and empower them with care to take action in small, manageable ways.

The team decided on a two-pronged approach:

  • Raise awareness of the problem and encourage immediate action
  • Adjust inherent mindsets and change ongoing behaviours

Who to target?

With many visitors arriving into Brighton by train, there was an opportunity to raise awareness as soon as arrivals stepped foot on the station.

The team at Leave No Trace Brighton was keen to come up with an action plan that was environmentally friendly and would not create additional waste. So they immediately discounted the idea of printing leaflets or using traditional, carbon-heavy advertising mechanisms.

Instead, they turned to technology. This is where the Digital Detox team could help. We have significant expertise in design and development, and a huge passion for testing out new technologies to wow the end user.

The idea was simple; create a pledge that visitors could read and sign as soon as they arrived in Brighton. Provide facts and encourage visitors to take responsibility for their own actions.

  1. The pledge is accessible on smartphone via a QR code on printed material at Brighton train station. At the station, there are 3 android tablets on loan from Tech TakeBack, making the ‘Brighton Pledge’ accessible for everyone.

  2. There are Circular&Co. reusable cups available for sale, alongside a small donation to the Leave No Trace Brighton campaign fund. The cups can be purchased from Brighton train station, via the Leave No Trace online not for profit shop.

  3. Pledgers commit to collecting three pieces of rubbish and disposing of them responsibly each time they visit the beach. They’re also encouraged to share photos of themselves doing so on social media (tagging #leavenotracebrighton of course!). This has created a fantastic community of environmentally conscious folk who are proud to be doing their bit to protect the beautiful Brighton seaside.

How Digital Detox helped

We were thrilled when Leave No Trace Brighton got in touch to request our help with the digital aspects of the campaign. In fact, we were already on the hunt for a new pro-bono community project, so this was ideal timing.

Our senior developer, Asli, set to work creating the campaign website and QR experience - putting her coding skills to work.

Asli says that she was delighted to be asked to work on the campaign, not least because she has recently moved to Brighton! She is passionate about protecting her beautiful new hometown and its stunning beaches, and putting her digital skills and experience to good use!

Asli found some relevant imagery and gained input from the Digital Detox design team about how to bring the images to life on the website.

Asli worked with Will Scobie, a Brighton born illustrator, who was also keen to support this fantastic cause. Asli and Will created a prototype that they shared with the Leave No Trace team for input and feedback. The idea was to bring certain creatures to life when users scanned the QR code using simple augmented reality technology.

Once everyone was happy with the prototype, Asli built the digital experience, using a mix of HTML, Javascript and 3JS.

Will created a suite of graphics; a coffee cup, plastic waste elements and bottles, as well as some sea creatures, which were animated to create an augmented reality experience.

Offsetting digital carbon

The LNT team opted for a digital experience to minimise the amount of carbon they created in the process, but they knew that their efforts would still produce some carbon. At Digital Detox, we know all too well that digital actions produce a great deal of carbon too (you can read more about this here). So we were happy to provide insight into the level of carbon we might produce from our digital actions and suggest ways to offset this.

Leave No Trace decided to make a donation to the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project in West Sussex in order to offset their digital carbon.

Did you know that kelp is an incredible carbon guzzler? In fact, kelp forests are key to reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, which causes Climate Change. So a donation to the project was a fantastic way to offset the carbon from the campaign.

Simple changes, big impact

At Digital Detox, we believe that simple changes can make a big difference.

If everyone who visits Brighton collects just three pieces of rubbish and disposes of them correctly, we can clean up the beaches and protect the beautiful natural environment around us.

The same principle applies to our work as a digital design and development agency. We’re confident that we’re making a difference as we help businesses become more energy efficient in their digital processes. We help people understand why digital carbon is an issue, what contributes to it, and how to reduce what they produce.

Get in touch to find out how we can help your business become more digitally sustainable. If you’re an environmental charity looking for support, contact us - we’d love to help!