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This Wearable Measures Your Carbon Footprint In Real Time

The Worldbeing wristband delivers a quantified guilt trip.

What’s your carbon footprint today? While rough footprint calculators have been around for a while–asking questions like how many flights you usually take in year–they’re not exactly something you can easily use in everyday life to change habits.

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A new wearable prototype tracks your carbon footprint in real time. Based on things like what you’ve bought and where you’ve traveled, it generates a “carbon cloud” to visualize your daily footprint. A connected app automatically gives you a daily target based on your history. If you meet your goals, you’ll be able to earn rewards from low-carbon businesses.

“One of the issues is that climate change or carbon footprints are very intangible concepts,” says Benjamin Hubert, founder of Layer, the London-based studio Worldbeing. “They happen over long periods of time, or you don’t visually see them. So the first thing was how do we make it engaging and meaningful for people on the street. To really engage with the topic, we felt that we needed a platform that was accessible and entertaining and engaging.”

The designers partnered with the Carbon Trust, an organization that specializes in carbon footprints, to build the most accurate data into the app. The wristband doubles as a way to make purchases (using your heartbeat “signature” to make it secure, you can tap to buy instead of pulling out a card), and then the app uses the Carbon Trust’s database to pull up a carbon footprint. The system also uses Google Maps to track your footprint as you drive, and pulls data from energy and water bills to track usage at home. Apps like My Fitness Pal can add data about the food you’re eating.

Some of the calculations are based on estimates, because that’s all that’s currently available. But the app can get better over time as more data comes out, and for now, it’s enough to be able to better understand what impact your daily life actually has. “It’s providing more information than you already have,” says Hubert. “That information starts to empower you to make better decisions.”

Someone wearing the gadget will start to see which choices make the biggest impact. “Nobody really understands, for any decision they make, how much carbon that generates,” he says. “Whether it’s eating red meat, whether it’s flying around the world, whether it’s buying Gucci handbags.” Once the connection to carbon is more obvious, people can start to change.

The Worldbeing wearable and app are also designed to get consumers more involved in pushing businesses to change more quickly and supporting those that already have. “There’s no push-pull model now,” he says. “What we want to generate is consumers pushing the change.” The app connects consumers with more responsible businesses through rewards.

The wearable–itself made from recycled e-waste and with a low-power e-ink display–is meant to be a visible signal to others about a commitment to trimming your carbon footprint. The app will also connect with Facebook, so friends can share progress and compete.

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For now, the design exists only as a prototype. But the team is running a Thunderclap campaign to measure interest, and plans to go to investors next. They hope to bring it to market in 2017.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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