Does it make a difference in the amount of energy or water that people use if they know more about the infrastructure and the processes involved in supplying those needs? Could residents make more sustainable decisions and change their behaviors if they were able to visualize the overall usage and the individual usage for water and energy in their city?
One city believes that to be true, and have provided a public “dashboard” for their water and energy systems, in the hope that it can be a motivating factor in driving personal and community change.
The city of Oberlin, Ohio (USA) has made their water use, energy use, and water quality data available to the public with a new online dashboard, the Oberlin Environmental Dashboard.
One of the developers of the project, Jon Petersen, a teacher of Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, said that goal of the project was to be able to transform what is normally complex and technical data about the water and energy systems into a format that would be both easy to understand and simple to access.
“We’re trying to create these sort of compelling animated graphics that convey to people in a way how their resource consumption is actually affecting the world around them.” – Peterson
The dashboard features real-time data on a number of different systems and locations, including the output of a solar array, the quality of the municipal water supply (dissolved oxygen, dissolved solids, pH, water clarity, temperature), the water level in a local creek, and the electricity use by the city itself.
Users have the choice of viewing the data from today, this week, this month, or this year, putting into context, and have the option to see the data with different metrics (such as seeing electricity use stated in either kWh, cost, or CO2 emissions).
The team behind the Oberlin program wants to get more people engaged in the process, and with the dashboard, so that they can support a more sustainable community with their actions and decisions.
“We’re just as interested in having people think about how they are interacting with other community members, how they’re voting in local elections. We want them to think about all of those things as they relate to resource use.” – Peterson
Go check out the Oberlin Environmental Dashboard and see what you think. Do you believe these types of awareness-raising projects can make a difference in local and regional water and energy issues?
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