A Step Toward Building a Sustainable Economy by Informing Consumer Purchasing Decisions at the Point of Sale

American consumers make purchasing decisions about huge numbers of products every year. These decisions are based primarily on easily-observable factors such as product form, features, price, packaging, and brand. The lack of simple, reliable, convenient, and accessible information about the social and environmental impact of products and their producers results in such concerns being ignored by consumers and thus undervalued in the marketplace. Corporations, working to stay competitive and following economic incentives, often compromise social and environmental responsibility in pursuit of reduced cost and increased market share.

The concept of AWARE is to provide consumers with quick and simple access to customizable information about the social and environmental characteristics of products and their producers on demand and at the point of purchase. We believe that informing consumer decisions will impact purchasing habits. Sufficient changes in purchase patterns would create market forces and provide economic incentives for companies to put more emphasis on social and environmental performance.

Several studies and prototypes have been developed under the direction of Dr. Jeremy Michalek in conjunction with the BLUElab group (formerly Engineers Without Borders) and several project courses at the University of Michigan to explore the potential of the AWARE concept. Prototypes include a mobile phone version, a small keychain device, wearable devices, and a PDA program that can be used with a barcode scanner for convenient access to social and environmental information. The AWARE project has been supported by a grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to study and balance elements of people, prosperity, and the planet (P3).


Links and Documentation:

Report: US EPA P3 Executive Summary (Michalek et al., 2005)        
Poster: US EPA P3 Poster (Michalek et al., 2005)        
Report: US EPA P3 Phase I (Michalek et al., 2005) Proposal    
AWARE Student Website (Novella et al., 2005)        
Report: Product-Specific Environmental Information (Kerfoot, 2005) Proposal    
Report: AWARE PDA PocketPC Prototype (Gilchrist, 2005) Proposal    
Report: AWARE Keychain and Phone Prototypes  (Smith et al., 2005) Proposal    
Report: Marketing Survey (Jamison et al., 2004)  Proposal Survey
Report: Eco-labeling Systems (Putterman et al., 2004)        
Report: Marketing Survey (Stephens et al., 2002) Proposal    
Report: Initial AWARE Product Design Concept (Michalek et al., 2001)        
Original AWARE Palm Emulator Demo (2001)        





Sample Screen Shots: