2020 Shortlist

Cook spaghetti bolognese with us: We’ll show you how climate-friendly your recipe is

Category: Best news application

Country/area: Switzerland

Organisation: Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 12 Jun 2019

Credit: Marie-José Kolly, Balz Rittmeyer, Manuel Roth, Christoph Ruckstuhl

Project description:

This interactive story lets our readers pick the ingredients they use when they cook spaghetti bolognese. We show them, how climate-friendly their recipe is as compared to all the possible combinations of ingredients and compare its ecological footprint with a car ride. In the second part of the article, we go through all the ingredients, show a graphic of the ecological footprint of all their variants (e.g. Swiss tomatoes in the summer, Swiss tomatoes in spring, Italian tomatoes, Spanish tomatoes, canned tomatoes) and explain the reasons behind variation.


Impact reached:

The story addresses a wide audience: Everyone has to eat. And many people like spaghetti bolognese. The playful way to address environmental impact appealed to our users: The piece was very successful, as measured by article views and engaged time. There was also a wide resonance of the article in social media and the real world. A particularly high number of spontaneous, personal messages from the general public as well as from experts in the academic field of life cycle assessment showed us that it conveyed the topic equally well to experts and to the general public.

Techniques/technologies used:

Data were modelled for us by a team of researchers from Zurich, after we had told them what ingredients we need to show, provided transport distances for e.g. tomatoes from Tuscany (IT) and packaging weights e.g. for canned tomatoes. We had also asked different supermarket chains which products they provide in which month, in order to display a realistic Swiss consumer situation. The researchers then used the software Simapro and the databases Ecoinvent und Agrifood.
We processed their data further using R. Interactive elements were programmed within a JavaScript environment.

The final article was adapted for wide screens, for mobile screens (the graphics, in particular), as well as for the printed newspaper (parts of the story were rewritten).

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part was to keep all of the information and the involved people together and manage the project, besides all the other tasks that we had as a journalist / graphic designer / developer in a newsroom. Communicating with different external stakeholders required time and communication. The project was published later than planned, because several election projects got in the way. However, in the end, everyone was proud of and happy with the result.

What can others learn from this project?

What we believe: How to create an interactive piece that is interactive where it should be, and non-interactive where the added value would be narrow. How to be very precise and thoughtful on what to include in the story / the analysis, on how work with data and explain the methods behind it.

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