Update on Project Activities
Last Friday, our team met in Palo Alto with Diane and Lisa, one of the main leaders in creating and managing the Green Challenge websites for multiple Bay Area cities. During our meeting, we learned about Lisa’s specific vision behind the Green Challenge and used Lisa as a sounding board for our website suggestions. In addition, we began to discuss social media strategies and methods to motivate users to stay engaged with the site in the long term.
This week, we began formulating survey and interview questions for students and teachers. We were able to have our weekly conference call with Diane, and were able to talk with her about the type of information that would be most useful for her to have. Areas of importance, to be focused on in the survey, include: residents’ familiarity with climate change and the Menlo Green Challenge, actions that are feasible and attractive to complete, features that make websites appealing and easy to use, and prizes that motivate users to take on the Challenge.
We also began preliminary work on the Household Success story by creating interview questions and writing a brief newsletter for Diane to send to the site mailing list early next week.
What We Observed and Learned
Before going over our suggestions, Lisa outlined her previous work with the Palo Alto Climate Action Plan and how it contributed to the creation of the Green Challenge. Specifically, she discussed how she channeled her passions for activism and climate policy to lead a neighborhood sustainability effort and the strategies she tried during this period. For example, she advised us to promote discussions regarding the impacts and actions people choose in order to help them visualize their carbon footprint and encourage competition between teams. As these discussions became more prevalent in her neighborhood, it became difficult to track their process without a metric. Therefore, Lisa created an online platform to gage a city’s specific carbon footprint and estimate personal energy use while also involving an aspect of competition.
Since Lisa crowdsourced her website through each stage, she wanted us to give feedback on a few of her future updates for the site. First, she mentioned the addition of new options to sort the grid categories by preference, such as allowing users to filter out actions they would never pursue. Her two largest proposals, however, were the addition of a student-specific action category for students and younger participants, and the rollout of a community submission page with a status feed and like/comment features. The goal of the latter is to prompt people to post pictures of their own actions, encourage friendly competition amongst household teams and facilitate the creation of a Green Challenge mobile app.
Next, our team was able to make thoughtful recommendations to improve the user-friendliness of the site. Lisa explained to us that the difficulty levels combine time and money considerations, and that the survey is missing some energy and travel averages that would facilitate the process for students unable to contact their parents for help. We believe that these clarifications and tools should be made available on the site in the form of a question mark or alternative pop-up bubble.
Unfortunately, we realized that a few of our suggestions are not feasible. For example, adding source citations to all the action pages, or filtering actions based on the survey answers provided would require structural changes to the website that are extremely time intensive. Unfortunately, Diane also alerted us that the City of Menlo Park does not necessarily endorse Menlo Spark’s 2025 target for climate neutrality, and that the goal cannot be publicized on the Green Challenge website.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
As this week comes to a close, we assess that we are in a good position in our task timeline heading into Week 6. We have come up with a draft for surveys we’d like to hand to students and residents of Menlo Park. We also came up with important questions for the teachers that have run the Challenge before in their classrooms, and we’ve reached out to these teachers to set up interviews. Moving forward, we’ll send the survey and interview questions to Diane so she can look over them and give us feedback, and we’ll look forward to setting concrete dates to meet with teachers at La Entrada Middle School and Menlo Atherton High School.