Design challenge
Design checkout screens for e-commerce
app to help people recycle the goods they buy
Project Summary

This project was born out of a design challenge proposed by '' The task involved designing checkout screens for an e-commerce app aimed at helping people recycle the goods they buy. The feature I'm suggesting addresses a growing problem concerning fast fashion and its astronomical effects on climate change and the environment at large.

Even if only acutely aware of fast fashion's negative impact on the environment, one can understand there is a dire need to find a timely and practical solution; one that allows fashion-forward individuals to keep up with emerging trends, but also addresses the issues posed by the constant creation of new products and the disposal of unwanted ones. An obvious solution to the problem would be to buy less new clothing and to use and re-use items for their entire lifespan, but it is an impossible task to convince the majority of people to purchase less and ditch new trends. Therefore, the only viable option at this time involves reducing the impacts of the fast fashion effect by creating a simple, desirable, and efficient way for people to recycle their unwanted clothes and offering incentive for doing so.

The fashion industry is responsible for around 5% of all man made greenhouse gas emissions —more than aviation and shipping combined.
Direct industrial greenhouse gas emissions accounted for 22.2% of total U.S. emissions, making it the third-largest contributor after the Transportation and Electricity sectors.
Reference & learning:

Purchasing | Federal Green Challenge (FGC) | US EPA
Can fashion stop climate change?
Useless kit — to reuse more wisely

I began my work by employing secondary and competitive research to garner a thorough understanding of the problem at hand and focus-in on my potential audience. I furthered my research by conducting user interviews with my target audience—this quickly verified my initial projections about Generation Y and Z's purchasing habits and supportive views on environmentalism. An affinity diagram was used to synthesize a potential outcome, and through the use of ideation and the prioritization matrix, I was able to appropriately transition to the next phase—storyboarding, sketching, and creating mockups. Once I had a mid fidelity prototype in place, I was ready to reach out to a few select individuals from my target demographic in order to conduct a remote test and evaluate my proposed solution among potential users.

How might we encourage young people to recycle the clothes they are no longer wearing.

Who will use and benefit from the proposed solution?

Generation Y (aka millennials) and Z tend to purchase new clothes at an alarmingly high rate. Many closets fill to the brim with unwanted and unused clothing items—worn only a few months before being replaced by new ones. Many of these clothing items end up collecting dust or in the trash. This is a growing problem in a society where social media's focus on image is ever-growing and influential. There is an immense pressure on keeping up with new fashion trends, especially in Generation Y and Z. On the other hand, this same demographic is highly conscious about climate change issues and overall concerned about the negative impact of their purchasing habits. A discount on new clothes—coupled with a gesture of environmental activism—might present the perfect motivation to encourage target users to recycle their old clothing.
What did I learn from my primary and secondary research

Overall my research confirms that
  • Both generation Y and Z purchase new clothes at a high rate
  • Generation Y and Z harbour concerns about the effects of fast fashion on climate change and want to be environmentally conscious
  • They don't seem to be able to purchase less, even though they are aware and sympathetic to the impacts of their buying decisions
  • The target demographic are open to alternative methods of conservation that don't involve giving up the purchase of new clothing, such as up-cycling and recycling
  • They do prefer responsible brands that align with their values over other brands, and are willing to pay more to support them

Secondary research
According to my research—albeit Millennials and Generation Z spend less money on fashion compared to Gen X and Baby Boomers per year—they buy more items overall. There is a greater sense of replaceability, and less focus on long-lasting items of high quality. It would seem that Millennials and Generation Z are the main target demographic of the fast fashion industry.
Since these two generations—Millennials and Gen Z—are the most aware of and concerned with climate change issues. I have determined that they would be the right audience for the feature I am designing.

Here is the list of some of the articles used to further understand my audience's behaviors, motivations, concerns, and goals.
Green generations: Millennials and Gen Z change the fabric of fashion
Generation Z & The Fast Fashion Paradox
Millennials Make More Apparel Purchases than Other Generations

Primary research
I conducted user interviews to gain a better understanding of why, when, and how people buy new clothes and dispose of their unwanted items. I was curious to know how much they know about fast fashion and its effect on climate change. Would greater knowledge on this matter change their behavior? I learned that most people only think about disposing of their old clothes when they run out of space; there is no real incentive to recycle them sooner —"I'll try to donate the ones I don't use once a year or anytime that my closet gets too crowded."

I used an affinity diagram to synthesize the data I gathered through the interviews. I also learned of a new app called "reGain," which is already offering a similar solution to mine. They offer a rewards points system to users who recycle previously worn clothing. I included their vision and reasoning in my affinity diagram for future reference.

"I'll try to donate the ones I don't use once a year or anytime that my closet gets too crowded."

While researching the existing solutions, I compiled a list of some of the existing ones currently available:
reGain app, H&M in-store drop-off, various donation boxes around Toronto (Oasis Clothing Bank, Canadian Diabetes , Goodwill, etc.)

I spent some time analyzing each service. Based on my research:
  • Potential impact - Most people who donate their old clothing look for a donation drop off point that is close to them
  • Value for the audience - People mainly donate to clear space in their homes, others also feel good about doing something helpful to society and the environment
  • Solution adoption - Most of the popular existing solutions are nonprofit. Their mission is helping society and the environment. The two existing for-profit solutions are H&M and reGain (a new mobile app, which doesn't have that many users yet, but it seems like a promising idea). H&M's recycling program is not well-advertised, and therefore not well-known by the public.


The fact that I only found two practical solutions that have been used by profitable organizations has two different meanings. Firstly, this is a relatively new and undeveloped area—there aren't many solutions out there—meaning it's great for mining ideation. Secondly, it may indicate this area is uninteresting to most organizations; it's hard to earn profit from and not a worthwhile pursuit for those concerned primarily with commercial and financial gains. Regardless, I believe it is possible to design something that benefits all parties involved; helping the business, the user, and environment in one fell swoop.
Based on the user interviews, I outlined the following key features.

Key feature #1
A rewards point system is a necessary motivator. One of the people I interviewed indicated they would keep their clothing in their home forever, and would only consider donating or recycling if there was a reward or incentive for doing so. They further indicated that a rewards point program that resulted in discounted new purchases was a plausible solution.

Key feature #2
Access to a map that displays the drop-off point nearest you and their operation time. Most people prefer to find a drop off point near them and bring the items there on their own time, and without much hassle or distance.

Key feature #3
For some people it would be easier—and in cases of the elderly or differently-abled, necessary—to provide an at-home pick-up feature for their old clothing items. In this scenario, we would need to design and implement a calendar where users can select the date and the time that suits them.

Further considerations
To make it simple for both users and businesses, people can drop-off their items at the store and instantly earn reward points by scanning a membership card at the point of purchase (many clothing brands have a membership card that customers can get for free to collect points and receive benefits/discounts already).

A pick-up service poses further complications, since the person who collects the used items would need a reader and a face-to-face interaction to scan the user's card. If it's not possible to have face-to-face interaction there must be an option to print out a bar code and attach that to the package in order to collect the points.

For the purpose of this design challenge, I am going to focus on Feature #1 and #2.


The flow can be part of the online app of each brand. For example, one possible implementation is following a new purchase, at the time of order confirmation. This way users get a reminder to recycle their old items, but the flow doesn't interrupt their shopping experience. When users drop off items at a store, they get their reward points by scanning their membership card; these points have no expiry.
Sketches and mock-ups

I started with sketching some ideas and then worked my way through low fidelity and high fidelity mock-ups.

Try out the prototype!
Usability testing

After creating a mid-fid prototype, I conducted a usability test to evaluate my design decisions.

My goals for testing:

  1. To test usability of the flow. Did I determine the right place to introduce the recycling feature to the customers? Is it easy to use this feature? Is there anything missing or unclear?

  2. To gather more information about people's behaviors and motivations around buying and donating clothing by asking some behavioural questions during the test.

What did I learn?

  • People noticed the recycling feature, but they didn't notice the discount feature as an incentive. This feature needs to be more prominent.
  • They appreciated a link where they could learn what items can be recycled, and one that indicated what actions to take if you do not currently have a membership card.
  • Overall the flow was easy and straightforward to use.
  • One person mentioned they would rather have a previously scheduled pick-up.
  • People absolutely loved the idea of receiving discounts for recycling their old clothes.

Date: Aug, 2020
Duration: Two weeks

Product Designer
Methods and Tools: Secondary Research, Competitive Research, User Interview, Synthesis, Storyboard, Sketch, Low and High Fidelity Mock ups, and Usability Studies. Using Figma and Miro.