A Simple Cup

April 22nd, 2009

Visualizing the impact a simple cup can have on our environment

According to, over 6.5 million trees are consumed each year to produce the 16 billion disposable coffee cups that are being thrown away out into landfills. For about every 50,000 paper coffee cups produced, a tree is destroyed.

A Simple Cup visualizes the impact disposable coffee cups have on our environment by simulating a real-time growing forest on a web site every time a mug of coffee is placed onto a networked coffee cup coaster. The interactive visualization encourages coffee drinkers to drink out of their coffee mugs by rewarding them with saved trees and energy onto a virtual ecosystem (that may be accessed globally online) every time they don’t drink out of disposable paper cups when they have a cup of coffee. Hypothetically, if a significant amount of coffee drinkers had one of these networked mug coasters next to their desks, they would be able to each contribute and collectively grow this forest together, visualizing how much natural resources have been saved over time.

The objective of A Simple Cup is to raise awareness over the impact disposable coffee cup production has on our environment’s natural resources. The project does this by encouraging coffee drinkers to stop drinking coffee out of disposable cups and instead make a valuable contribution to our environment. On the web site’s visualization, one mug of coffee is equivalent to 50,000 paper cups, which claims the life of about one pine tree. In addition to visualizing trees, the butterflies in the forest each represent one home that could be potentially powered in a year.

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Data Visualizations from the Museum of Natural History

March 24th, 2009
RAP (Robot Action Painter) - creates original paintings using a combination of random decisions and responses to its environment

RAP (Robot Action Painter) - creates original paintings using a combination of random decisions and responses to its environment

Last week I visited the Museum of Natural History in New York City and was amazed with all the data visualizations they put together for their displays. Ever since my visit to the museum, I have become addicted to designing my own data visualizations for different types of data sets. Click here to view some of the visualizations I photographed during my journey through the Museum of Natural History.

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Jaw-Dropping Statistics

February 2nd, 2009

For inspiration to help develop an idea for a semester long project, my Mainstreaming Information class was asked to present three examples of “jaw-dropping” statistics that highlight a particularly surprising situation or trend. I think much can be said about the following shocking data that affect our planet both environmentally and socially:

The Basic Problem with Coffee Cups

  • Paper cup use in 2006 accounted for 4 billion gallons of water wasted, 6.5 million trees cut down, and 4,884 billion BTU’s of energy used.
  • At the University of Washington, a college of roughly 42 thousand students, the Housing and Food Services Department estimates that 5000 paper coffee cups are thrown away every school day.
  • Starbucks found that 1.9 billion cups were used by Starbucks in 2000. In 2006, Starbucks reported that this figure had grown to 2.3 billion cups for use at their stores.
  • Starbucks has begun to use cups made from 10% post-consumer materials, while the remaining 90% of the cup is composed of new paper releases methane, a greenhouse gas with 23 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide.
  • How often do we lie to others?

  • Most people lie to others once or twice a day and deceive about 30 people per week. The average is 7 times per hour if you count all the times people lie to themselves.
  • 75% of all lies are for admittedly selfish purposes with 25% told for allegedly unselfish purposes.
  • 35 percent of resumes contain lies
  • We lie in 30 to 38% of all our interactions
  • How much shower water does one person consume in a week?

  • One person can use almost 11,000 gallons a year if they take a 15 minute shower every day
  • You can save water by simply reducing the water flow from your hot or cold water faucets to regulate temperature instead of increasing the flow