12. march 2021

How our community drove us to create an ocean cleanup feature

Lunar introduces Project Blue, a new initiative which enables our users to clean the Nordic oceans from plastic every time they use their Lunar card. Head of Design Kasper Mathias Svendsen takes you behind the scenes to show you how and why we empowered our community.


By Kasper Mathias Svendsen, Head of Design

It's a simple and community-driven offering for everybody who voluntarily wants to join our cause and make a tangible impact on our environment. We call it Project Blue.

As a user experience designer, I'd love to tell you the story of a wild and thrilling journey from initial idea to user validated product in a startup. I've broken it down in small chapters, if you'd like to come along for the ride.

tl;dr: We launched a new green initiative named Project Blue linking user spending to ocean cleanup with an awesome partner. It has been a really cool process, and I've never been prouder of a piece of work, or my workplace.

Project Blue

In the first 50 hours more than 1,500 users signed up to join Project Blue and cleaned the oceans from 60 kg of plastic, micro plast and waste.

This is Project Blue

Let's start with why we're doing this, and get back to what Project Blue is and how it works.

Why are we focusing on plastic in our oceans?

Because it is a huge problem (among many) that impacts our everyday life and the planet in significant ways. Here are some chilling facts:

  • Plastic production has doubled in the past 50 years
  • Today, the oceans contain one tonne of plastic for every five tonnes of fish
  • Plastic is killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.
  • Microplastics get into our food and is consumed by the average Joe or Josephine

What is Project Blue exactly?

Seabins (picture them as smart ocean garbage cans) are at the heart of Project Blue. They filter water and remove plastic and waste from our oceans. The Seabin Project is an Australian NGO providing practical and tangible solutions to reduce the plastics in our oceans. Seabins pull water in from the surface with a submersible water pump capable of displacing 25.000 LPH (litres per hour), and passes through a catch bag inside the Seabin removing waste, microplastic and cleaning up chemicals. They are then placed where most garbage and plastic ends up.

So how does it work?

Project Blue is for everyone - and it’s completely voluntary. Everyone can sign up directly in the app by contributing as little as 0.001 - 0.005 % percent of their card spending to the cause. Lunar commits with 2% on top of all contributions. Everything goes towards Project Blue in new Seabins, maintaining the existing fleet and other plastic removal initiatives and education on the subject.

Users can see their personal impact directly in the app as they spend, and follow our joint venture in achieving our community goals.

This is the story of how the product came about.

Chapter 1: Testing an Idea

One of my first tasks at Lunar was facilitating a design sprint on an important product which included new card designs. Design sprints, and discovery phases in general, are wonderful in many ways. What I love most about them is the possibility of testing wacky and possibly non-feasible ideas at zero cost. You never know what you come up with as a diverse group. 

Amongst other ideas for the sprint prototype, we decided to add the option to pick a green card. It had a simple and vague message about doing something for the environment. That's it, and lo and behold, all our test participants picked this green card, even-though it was definitely not the prettiest of the bunch. We knew, we were on to something!

Key learnings:

  • Make the most out of the discovery phase.
  • Good ideas are saved for later - not disregarded for good.
  • Test broadly and test early

Design Sprint

Lunar Design Sprint testing new ideas and developing products with the users.

Chapter 2: Going Guerilla

We had several environmental causes we could pursue. Everybody had an opinion on what the right one should be. Top candidates were planting trees, ocean cleanup or carbon footprint calculation. We also made some cool new card designs to match an environmental initiative. But we needed to identify the right cause, that not only matched our brand, but also resonated well with our users' sense of urgency and willingness to get involved.

When in doubt, we ask our users! We strive to get that crucial outside-in feedback to guide us. So we went to our UX guerilla tactics. Equipped with nothing more than a poster with the three causes, and variants of the new card design, I went to town (pre-covid times, remember those?). 

I asked everyone who fitted our user segment: (1) which cause they believed to be most valuable and relatable, and (2) which card design they liked the best. I was lucky enough to get both one-on-ones as well as group discussions going.

From about sixty short interviews completed within two hours, we had a clear winner.

  • Ocean cleanup (80% of the votes): Plastic in our oceans is a very tangible problem. We face it both locally and when we travel. We hear about it in the news and through various campaigns. You can see it and feel it. And it seems like an 'easy' thing to do something about.
  • Planting trees: The concept is easy enough to understand but it is riddled with questions and distrust. Are we just preserving existing forests that are not planned to be cut down? Which organisations will do the planting, are they legit and what are the working conditions? How big of an impact does one tree actually make?
  • Carbon footprint calculation: Very hard to grasp. How much is a tonne of CO2? It causes guilty conscious, and most people understand what they could change in their everyday life to make an impact, but it is complex to link tangible action to spending.

Key learnings:

  • Get visual, and get there fast! A main task for any UX designer is that of closing gaps and facilitating collaboration between interdisciplinary stakeholders. Nothing is more valuable than a common language, and we all speak visually. When discussing solutions, pitfalls and possibilities, and when turning tacit knowledge, experience, questions, bullet-points, slides, inputs or concerns into mockups, that gets everyone onboard fast and evens the playing field. Instead of explaining different positions, we can point to something concrete in a user journey (high or low fidelity) or draw it afresh.
  • Get outside-in validation done early. We don't always know best.

Field work

Field work! Equipped with nothing more than a poster with the three causes, and variants of the new card design, I went to town.

Chapter 3. On the Hunt for a Partner

So, it had to be ocean cleanup, upwards and onwards! We wanted to address tangibility, education, local impact and feel of progression we identified as important. We knew it was paramount to ensure good adoption and relatability, and that a few game design elements here and there wouldn't hurt the mission.

We went looking for the right partner to team up with. We had many candidates, but in the end the Aussie startup and successful Indiegogo campaign Project Seabin won our hearts and minds. Besides being a really cool bunch of people, they have the required knowledge to address the root of the problem, the drive to embark on the journey with Lunar and the tech to make immediate and measurable impact - both globally and locally.

Key learnings:

  • Find partners that get your brand
  • Find partners that match your drive and sense of urgency

Chapter 4. Prototype and Testing

At Lunar we are always looking for the sweet-spot. That's what we call the moment in which we've gone through several prototypes and gathered enough input from stakeholders and developers. We've asked all questions possible, as well as getting sufficient user feedback. At this point we feel very assured that what we are designing is almost spot on, feasible and estimated properly. Besides a good product description, this entails a holistic introduction to the product on all platforms, good copywriting, information architecture, guides, illustrations, affordance, unique selling points, and everything else related to UX and interface design.

Doing this, not only makes us feel comfortable and is done quite efficiently, it dramatically mitigates unpleasant surprises or major changes, once development is in full motion or after product launch. Of course questions will arise continuously, technical considerations will emerge, and some of the user journey will still need some clarification. But we are on a much sweeter ride in a very packed roadmap.

Project Blue was no different, and we gained invaluable feedback from both non-users and existing users through each step. Here are some of them:

  • Lunar contribution is key to hook me (amount less important)
  • Keep it voluntary - not everyone wants to partake
  • Ensure a community feeling
  • Remember to also emphasise local impact
  • Explain the partner collaboration with video
  • The adjustable contribution amount makes me feel empowered and in control
  • Attribute contributions to all card transactions, but leave out transfers

Key learnings:

  • Validation is key. Get as much of it as possible, as early as possible. Late changes are costly.
  • Empower coworkers with ownership and create ambassadors for your project
  • Remember to set KPIs - not just for the business, but also for celebratory moments.
  • Prototype and test as much as possible. It'll pay you back ten-fold in better products, better adoption and reduced development cost.

Lunar Seabin in Vedbæk

The first local Lunar X Seabin in Vedbæk harbour cleaning 500,000 liters of water a day

Chapter 5. Ignition and Liftoff!

Yay, we're live! Our first branded Seabin has been put into water, and we can already see users signing up. We absolutely love feedback, and we can't wait to get more qualitative and quantitative data in the coming days.

Project Blue is just the first step in our efforts to do more environmental good:

  • We're shifting to degradable cards primarily made from seasalt.
  • We're changing all our packaging to minimise our footprint and reduce waste
  • With our virtual cards you can go completely plastic free. They can be connected to Apple Pay or Google Pay and used at your local store - and they are perfect for online shopping. Going virtual means no production, no packaging and no shipment.
  • Project Blue will be sponsoring and instigating community-driven events focused on ocean cleanup and education.

You can join Project Blue in your Lunar app and join us in cleaning the oceans. You can donate between DKK 1-5 for every DKK 1000 spent. Lunar will top up all donations with 2%.

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