Green Campus

Green Campus
UX, UI, Interaction design

Green Campus

The Brief

Our design question:

How to transmit a coordinated and persuasive message that helps students build a ‘sustainable mind’?

and our design solution was:

Using compelling storytelling and an engaging character to open the conversation about sustainability.

Our design process

Understanding the Brief

I used the IDEO method of understanding the brief. A collection of notes summarising our design challenge to understand the ramifications of the impact we hope to achieve and how we might aim to achieve that impact.

Stakeholder research

We've identified the primary and secondary stakeholders involved with our project.

Desk research

We conducted desk research to gain an initial understanding of the topic. An early insight revealed that the issue of sustainability is vastly complex and multifaceted. There were many divergent directions that our research could lead us to and so our challenge was to try to consolidate this information in a way that would help us narrow our vision and focus further into more specific domains of the issue of sustainability.

An early insight would lead us to try to tackle this complexity and to help facilitate improving awareness and thus some form of knowledge management platform.

Field research

Interviews and surveying

We conducted several interviews and survey with students as well as conducting some expert interviews with some of the stakeholders we've outlined in our stakeholder map. This helped further refine our goals and improved our understanding of the task at hand. Some quick insights we generated were:

  • Students might recycle or not depending on the habits and behaviour of their family and friends (mirror actions). (Interview with students in the canteen) 
  • If there is a unified "forced system" of recycling (meaning there are no general bins) people will follow it. They feel guilty not to recycle while everyone else does (source: Leiden University interviews) 
  • Since COVID-19 started the use of plastic in HvA has increased significantly. HvA controls the packaging and wraps all fruits separately. (source: an interview with canteen worker) 70% of waste comes from the outside and 100% of all waste from university bins is burned (clients insight)

Our design process

Exploring the topic required a lot of research, evaluation and then where possible, early testing. And this resulted in a lot insights early on that reframes our understanding of the design challenge. And because of this reframing, that changes the scope and even sometimes forces us to reevaluate our brief. Thus it becomes necessary to change our design question.


One of our main insights was that Our research concluded that Sustainability is a complex issue that must be addressed at various scales. Both individual behaviour and the policies that are adopted at an institutional level play an important role. Together with the the City of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) is working towards reaching sustainability goals while offering quality educational experiences for its students. They are looking for ways to activate and connect as many stakeholders as possible so that concerns, issues, and best practices can be shared effectively.

From this conclusion, we decided that we needed to shift our focus and change our design question to attempt to address the complexity at those various scales in a way that we could meaningfully add value whilst delivering to the timescales we were working with.

Our new design question:
HMW encourage and empower students towards continuing that conversation amongst themselves (and perhaps with management and other institutions) - that leads towards sustainable habits and/or actions?


Affinity Diagramming

From data collected in our research, we generated affinities that would reveal common themes that we could then explore further.

Empathy mapping

We developed empathy maps to discover the differences between what the user would say, feel, do and think.

User Profiles

MoSCow Method

Scenario mapping
Early User Scenarios generated


Brainstorming session

Systems mapping (technical scope consideration)

Scenario sketching

Paper prototyping and concepting

Our early ideation would generate several concepts:

  • Robot recycle  - Creating a recycled plastic-based character that must be fed plastic otherwise it complains and if continually starved, eventually dies..
  • Bins universal redesign
  • Small portable bins
  • Re-usable containers system
  • Installations on recycled plastic

Through desk research, I discovered "the afterlife effect" [1] - a phenomena that states that if people are more explicitly shown what the products they are being asked to recycle will become, they will recycle more.
[1] Winterich, K. P., Nenkov, G. Y., & Gonzales, G. E. (2019). Knowing What It Makes: How ProductTransformation Salience Increases Recycling. Journal of Marketing, 83(4), 21-37.

Ideation session and evaluation

Participatory co-design session

We decided that our early ideation and concepting still wasn't reaching anything concrete yet and so we decided to host a co-creation session with some our primary users and stakeholders. This yielded many more insights and ideas about the potential direction of our solution.


It was from this, that we pivoted. A our goal was no longer to help improve awareness around the topic of sustainability. We started off by aiming to be the knowledge bearers that would attempt to convey the topic of sustainability through information campaigns, but this required us to be experts on the subject matter, and our early research showed us that it was not technically feasible for us to do this in the time we had.

An awareness campaign --> facilitating conversation --> facilitating behavioural change and "building a sustainability mindset"

The subject of sustainability was too wide, the scope too large.. And so we decided that instead of increasing awareness, we would aim to facilitate and enable others to have those conversations surrounding sustainability - we would build a platform to host conversations surrounding sustainability issues and to help enable sustainability initiatives based around those conversations. And that we'd provide the infrastructure to help build teams to facilitate these initiatives as well as potentially also fund them.

The Platform

As a solution, we designed GreenCampus: an online platform on which students can start sustainable challenges, join other challenges or get knowledgeable about sustainability topics such as waste management and energy. Within the platform we designed two dashboards for two different roles: the student dashboard is meant to give students an overview of their active challenges and statistics. From here, they can also join conversations. The admin dashboard is meant for AUAS and Green Office workers. They can moderate challenges, see the statistics of current challenges or start blogposts.

Social networks on online platforms, as a technological trend had been proven effective in increasing engagement and changing behaviour and provides the basis for incorporating it as a mechanism for behavioural change as part of a model we used called the Integrated Change Model [2], explained below.
Abhishek Samantray, Massimo Riccaboni. 20 June 2020. Peer influence of production and consumption behaviour in an online social network of collective learning.

Development & Testing

The Integrated change model (i-change model)

We use the integrated change model, to provide us with a framework for developing models for not just improving awareness, but also for facilitating behaviour change, our ultimate goal.

From this we understand the task of changing behaviours is incredibly more complex than just increasing awareness touching upon many factors such as motivation, information factors and behavioural states.

In the diagram included, I map out where we can implement each of those factors as applied to an online platform.

Integrated change model for behavioural change


Gamification and the application of it is often viewed with scepticism and taboo, given that it might seem to engage in bad UX design patterns and psychology. But this link happens almost exclusively when it comes to having incentives linked to monetisation within the domain of commercial interests. This portal aims to gamify without delving into the dark paths of applying addictive psychological hooks and instead aims to tap into the psychology of hope [3].
Andreas B. Eisingerich, André Marchand, Martin P. Fritze, Lin Dong. 13 March 2019. Hook vs. hope: How to enhance customer engagement through gamification. Table 1.

AP - An Awareness Mascot

In casting an androgynous plastic bottle as our main protagonist, we adopt a narrative structure that is akin to the storytelling that is founded in classic stories such as The Seven Samurai, and (to a lesser extent) that of the early Star Wars films.

We frame the story from the perspective of an accessible and relatable character called AP (short for Androgynous Plastic). Through AP, we are able to account for narratives from the 1st person perspective - much as we experience the first Star Wars films through the lenses of C3PO & R2D2.

Personification of a plastic bottle proves to be a rich concept from which to form the framework for the entire portal. We ground motives surrounding sustainability by personifying the challenge. This is what AP is meant to embody and to symbolise the scale of the uphill struggle of what might seem an insurmountable set of issues. But we have to start to tell the story somewhere, and so we start from a rich base that is unencumbered by formal structure and can probe concepts and ideas with relative freedom.

AP lives inside of the university and the platform. It is there to be a link between students and sustainability. The main feature of AP is to represent the university's sustainable directions. It will be located at the university building as a projection. Among other features, one of them is showing a QR code that leads students to the platform. Online AP is there to guide students through sustainable initiatives at the university and, most of all, to inspire them.

Is AP supposed to represent the student? Yes and no, but mostly no. We hope AP will share many traits of their intended target audience, but more like, we hope AP will be seen as a guide, a cheerleader, a sounding board, a visible outcome of our doing. In other words, seen as a friend.

Wireframing and user journeys maps

I designed several wireframes as well as user journey maps for the platform.

Application of UX design principles to our design

Service design

I generated a full 360 view of the implementation of the project in the form of designing some service design blueprints. This would highlight many more facets that pertain to the implementation of the project from the multiple touch points our platform would reach as well as potential, process-driven backstage actions that would enable the platform to function.

Design aesthetic

Our final design would literally embrace the concept of "going green" with the muted pastel shades of green seen throughout the design. Our protagonist - AP would be transformed from our original look to a more rounded to soften their features and this is conveyed further in the rounded corners of all the tiles, panels and buttons. We settle on an almost hand-written font to convey friendliness and informality. Animations for AP are almost comical and encourages a sense of play & exploration.

Landing page and challenges page

Our landing page makes use of the "Feature, search & browse" design pattern to flatten the learning curve to using the platform and from early testing, we gained the insight that the initial introduction above the fold wasn't sufficient to explain what green campus was, and so we added the additional section just below the fold that would dive deeper into explaining what the portal is and does and explaining it's various properties.

Rapid working prototyping and interaction design

There was the opportunity to develop a rapid user journey prototype of the Green Campus and we used this to do some initial testing and gain early insights. It also allowed us to explore and test some early interaction design throughout the interface, like the flipping panels in the Conversations section.

Go Game Changers Award

In January 2021, GreenCampus received a Go Gamechangers Award for the best solution in the category of digitalization. This award is given to the most innovative, daring, kind, special, or brave initiative that has to do with social, ecological, and/or economical sustainability. Our team was chosen among many for bringing innovation that supports the university's sustainable goals.

Our goal is to encourage communication around sustainability between students and, at the same time, connect them with the right people to realise their ideas. Through a platform, we aim to connect students with the Green Office, which can guide them through the process of starting sustainable initiatives and provide them with a budget or connections. For AUAS, we aimed to create a system that they can use to manage their sustainable goals.

With this project we hope to set an example for collaboration towards sustainable ideas within institutions. If students and AUAS as an organisation can be the role model of sustainability in Amsterdam, this will hopefully spread the word to other organisations in The Netherlands.

View the case study on the HvA website >

Additional resources

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