It seems like every day there is another reminder of Earth’s grim future. A new study is released, a new statistic is published, or a new law is signed, beseeching us to act before we damage the planet beyond repair. The problem can feel overwhelming for an individual to tackle. Where do we begin? Earthwise is an app to help anyone start the journey towards environmental mindfulness by starting with the small things—like disposing of waste properly.


Design an app that helps the digital generation easily sort their trash into recycling, compost, and landfill.


  1. Interview members of the digital generation about their existing waste disposal habits
  2. Create and user test wireframes
  3. Develop a visual language for the app
  4. Test app and determine follow-up features

The recycling symbol is useful. But what do I do with everything else that isn’t marked?

I have two roadside trash bins at home. I assume one is recycling, and one is ‘other’…maybe compost?

Where does all this stuff go?

Most people I interviewed were uncomfortable and embarrassed about their waste disposal habits. While each person was aware that they were expected to sort their trash, roughly half of the interviewees said they didn’t know or remember what was supposed to go into each bin. Some people admitted that they didn’t know what “recycling” or “composting” meant. The confusion resulted in most people throwing everything into landfill.

Interestingly, every person I talked to felt like his or her knowledge of waste management wasn’t adequate. Everyone voiced a desire to improve the situation and take responsibility.

Confirm Zip Code screen

Since waste sorting rules are different between various counties and cities, I needed to make sure I was presenting accurate information to users. When users open the app, they are geolocated and asked to confirm their location. This info removes guesswork and confusion from the user’s experience.

Categories grid screen Subcategories List screen Item details screen

The most pressing need was for users to quickly figure out how to dispose of an item. Since most people don’t actively think about waste sorting, the choice had to be effortless and easy in the short time that users were already in front of trash bins. I included a search function and visual categorization as aids.

But the journey doesn’t stop there. During testing, users were eager to learn more about recycing, composting, and landfill. Every action item includes explanations for why an item belongs in a particular bin. This encourages comprehension-based learning and decreases a user’s dependence on the app over time.

User Flow

I also added fun fact cards to explain the impact of individual actions. These encourage good habits by simultaneously congratulating a job well done and speaking to the impact of the action over time.

Let's set you up screen Name screen Password screen Zip Code screen

To encourage people to build good habits, users can create accounts to track their progress and save a home location. The home location allows users to bypass location confirmation when opening the app, unless the app detects the user is in a different location.

I had 6 days to tackle this project, so while I thought I’d gotten off to a good start, I knew there was so much more to do to make this app valuable to its users.

  1. Build out the Learn and Tips sections so the information is organized and searchable, rather than displayed as individual cards only.
  2. Build out the My Log section so users can keep track of their progress.
  3. Create a community-oriented feature so users will motivate their friends to be eco-friendly, too.
  4. Expand the app to include information about reducing and reusing so users can decrease their environmental footprint even more.

Project completed as part of General Assembly’s User Experience Design Accelerated course. Research, UX Design, UI Design Kimberly Low