Vedge — A Web-based Platform Promoting Less Meat Consumption

Defining the Problem

The effects of climate change are ever-increasing; warming temperatures, rising sea levels and more frequent natural disasters. Whether you’re hopeful of a greener planet or believe we’re inevitably doomed, we all play a part in this not-so-great system. But now what?

Being sustainable is a lot easier said than done, there are so many things you can and can’t do and the more you look into how to be better for the environment the deeper you fall into the anxiety-inducing rabbit hole of nothing you do matters, we’re all gonna die and drink out of a jar.

The Goal

Provide people with an informed entrance into an eco-friendly lifestyle, making sure not to overwhelm users and start with small lifestyle changes.

  • Inform and inspire
  • Support transitions towards more eco-friendly lifestyles via interactive tools
  • Meet users where they are (comfort & personalization)

I decided to focus on something everyone is familiar with, food. In particular, consuming less meat. And this is where Vedge comes in.

text that reads “start your journey with vedge” accompanied by colourful illustrations

The Process

Research

To begin, I interviewed a handful of potential users to gain a deeper understanding of their perceptions of meat and identify any inclination to alter what they eat. The main takeaways from these discussions were:

  • People are not familiar with the production of most foods
  • The idea of meat differs from meat itself (culturally, religiously, habitually, etc.)
  • There’s a stigma surrounding plant-focused diets
  • Change is difficult (inside and outside of what you eat)

Now, I’d like to acknowledge that these insights come from a small sample size, and I’ve made assumptions using these insights as generalizations for larger audiences.

The User and their Pain Points

I used these insights to inform the creation of personas, addressing three different perspectives on the topic:

The differences between these personas are: how informed they are in regard to sustainability and their likelihood to change. Their goals and needs revolve around larger aspirations, however directly correlate to an eco-friendly lifestyle in terms of financial, health and lifestyle related concerns. The core of their pain points was:

  • The financial burden of groceries
  • Health concerns regarding dietary restrictions and less meat-based protein
  • No time to invest in meal preparation
  • Concerns with cooking abilities
  • The stigma surrounding the taste of plant-based dishes

Continued research

Some further research at this stage involved reading academic papers, books, journey mapping, more interviews, lo-fi prototypes and lots of sketches. These artifacts helped inform my understanding of the problem space (such as the systems involved in food production, carbon emissions emitted, uses of energy, etc.) and defined the scope of the project.

Defining the Scope

Users: Millennials-Gen Z with an existing interest in developing eco-friendly lifestyles but are unsure of where or how to start. (Based on access to these demographics for testing and the assumption that ‘younger’ age groups are more likely to change)

Product/Service: Tools that directly support users in beginning to consume less meat.

  • Meal Planner
  • Grocery Support

Medium: Web-based tools. The reasoning behind this decision was:

  • Web-based is more easily accessible
  • Tools support actionability
  • A website is long-term rather than a physical installation (for this specific project)
  • Being online provides the space to address all project goals (informing, inspiring, supporting, and taking action)

Design / Prototyping / Testing / Feedback Cycles

Ideation to Design

To reiterate, the core user pain points (based on user interviews and personas) were:

  • Increasing grocery costs
  • Concern about taste
  • Lack of time and skill to cook
  • Overall hesitancy to change

Moving to ideation, I wanted to make sure to directly address pain points. I did so by grouping pain points into three different areas: the grocery store, the kitchen, and the mind. These physical and metaphorical spaces are where I felt I could create a design solution.

Sketching out a handful of ideas, I translated the three pain point areas into actionable opportunities: *could make these bullets visual*

  • The Grocery Store — Inform users with meat alternatives, maintain their nutrition intake, support their overall transition to less meat consumption, and consider grocery budget
  • The Kitchen — Provide users with cooking inspiration, guarantee flavourful protein-filled meals, and take into account varying lifestyles (skills and time)
  • The Mind — Educate users with verified cited information, provoke hope in supporting a greener planet, and inspire users to adjust their lifestyle

These ideas revolved around meal inspiration, personalized recipe options, meal planning, grocery list support, and interactive data visualizations demonstrating the effects of meat consumption.

After taking the overarching project goals to establish a general user flow, I was equipped to design my first round of wireframes.

Feedback

This first round of feedback focused on concept and layout, some key feedback was:

  • There was a strong sense of visual hierarchy
  • The information needs to be more concise
  • Users should be eased into the space

Based on where I was in my project timeline, I was limited to two rounds of testing which I took as an opportunity to establish the visual language in order to obtain feedback on this aspect of the project in addition to updated wireframes.

The culmination of this project was Vedge.

The Final Product

text that reads “start your journey with vedge” accompanied by colourful illustrations

Vedge is an online web-based platform providing users with the tools and resources they need to support their transition towards a less meat-based lifestyle. Vedge acknowledges the difficulty involved in making lifestyle changes by focusing on smaller habit-based changes which work towards the larger goal of consuming less meat. Vedge supports users through actionable everyday tools in order to establish a foundation for change and spark hope in our fight against climate change.

Meal Planner (tool names are still in the works)

Vedge understands that everyone is different, whether a user wants meat six days a week or zero, whether they have no time or all the time in the world, whether they’re a master chef or getting a handle on the basics, the meal planner tool will curate a week’s worth of dishes based on user preferences. Users can rearrange and replace recipes, as well as, add ingredients to their grocery list right from the recipe.

Grocery Buddy (tool names are still in the works)

Inflation, greenwashing and overpriced ‘sustainable’ products can get pretty overwhelming, that’s why Vedge has the grocery buddy tool. Users are provided with the information they need in order to maintain a nutritious delicious protein-filled lifestyle. Easily discover eco-friendly and less environmentally impactful alternatives to proteins, snacks, and more while creating a grocery list that users can email or text to themselves.

Conclusion

Vedge isn’t meant to solve it all, it’s a start. The goal of this project was to inform, inspire and provoke action. At the end of the day, you can’t force a user to do something, but you can create hope and provide them with the tools to begin their journey towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

Reflection

  • An informed perspective and clear approach to a problem changes everything
  • It’s way too easy to get stuck in research and the problem space
  • You can’t solve it all, you can’t make everyone happy, but you can do something
  • Talk to people- they don’t need to be designers, the goal doesn’t need to be feedback, just talk to people and inform yourself on perspectives in as many ways as you can

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store