CO2 reductions, temperature targets and climate scenarios are much discussed, but climate policies and their effects usually remain very abstract. This application aims at giving users a representation of the climate consequences that their actions have. Using building blocks that represent emissions of typical products and services, users can visually and playfully build their climate budget: How often can you eat steak instead of going on vacation? How do the carbon footprints of smartphones and smoking compare?
This interactive story was part of the “sustainability weeks” at FUNKE Mediengruppe in October 2022. It was published on all websites of FUNKE Mediengruppe newspapers
(e.g. morgenpost.de, abendblatt.de, waz.de, braunschweiger-zeitung.de, thueringer-allgemeine.de)—in some cases as a lead story. The project received a lot of attention, especially on social media like Twitter. Both industry leaders and our readership praised the project for its innovative approach. The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) mentioned this project as an example of successful game applications in their list of 2022’s best data journalism.
The application is a custom React app. The game itself takes advantage of the browser’s drag & drop functionality to implement an interface empowering users to build their own visualization. Browsing, selecting, turning, placing, and removing blocks are additional actions giving users full control of the game, which were all custom built to increase interactivity.
Context about the project:
Data on CO2 footprints of specific products and services mostly don’t exist. One of the main endeavours of this project was therefore to collect from various sources the greenhouse gas emissions of as many actions and products as possible, and to gather them in a single database. Manual research and calculations were required. The average electricity consumption of an indoor swimming pool — and the corresponding emissions per visitor — is an example of such custom made calculations.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
One of the main contributions this game offers is the manually compiled database of specific products’ and services’ emissions. Even though carbon footprints are regularly discussed, there are few quantified examples of the impact that specific actions have. Next to being an engaging playful interface, the project is also a call for data journalists to go beyond the data that is ready to be found or scraped. It demonstrates the value of following through with a project idea, and of finding the data that is needed for the project rather than vice versa.
It is also an illustration of how interactive games beyond quizzes and other standard formats can be used as a key part of a data project for more effective communication, and shows how developing unique technical solutions opens up new horizons for journalism that cannot be achieved with standard graphs and visualizations.