Individual carbon footprints for Global Footprint network

Around 2011, climate change advocacy organizations would have done anything to get the attention their work gets today. Back then, an organization named the Global Footprint Network (GFN) needed to urgently bring to attention people's individual carbon footprints. So they came to my university's department head wondering if the department could do something for GFN. The department head has been my close mentor for a long time, and assigned this project to my team as an undergraduate final graduation project.

The brief was to come up with any visualizations at all, which normal people could see online when they entered their info, to determine their own individual footprint. After imagining several dramatic dooms-day visualization options, we thought the best thing we could do was to show the users the impact in pure solid data visualizations.

A friend and me basically carried the group and project on our backs. This was an interesting and challenging project, because one's carbon footprint is still not a visceral data point that moves people to act. Unpacking the complex formulae and very messy data dumps gave me a very solid understanding of working with messy datasets very early in my career. Apart from cleaning the datasets, and using NoSQL to store and retrieve this data (something really cutting-edge back then) and use a server-less architecture, I documented every aspect of the process and their data in extreme detail. The data documentation turned out to be more valuable to GFN than any visualization we delivered. We also worked with a challenging visualization technology that had some steam then named Adobe Flex, which was Adobe's last ditch effort to help some version of Flash survive on the web. In some ways, it was a precursor to the models of product development made popular by Electron and React Native.