How we treat the environment around us is becoming an ever growing problem as world temperatures grow, sea levels continue to rise and landfills begin to, well, fill.

The problem is very few of us see these effects first hand, which makes it hard for us to empathise and feel the need to change anything. This is where Real World Visuals comes in. The company wants to change our attitude towards the waste we create by enabling us to see first hand what it really looks like.

“The aim is to help everyone understand big environmental challenges and issues by making stuff which is normally invisible, visible”

 

We caught up with Real World Visuals’ Director, Antony Turner, who told us, “The aim is to help everyone understand big environmental challenges and issues by making stuff which is normally invisible, visible.”

Real World Visuals: Making the unseeable, seeable

Engaging an audience

Real World Visuals aspires to help change the current environmental climate. This is a huge challenge, but the team seem to have the right idea, “We do this to make it more engaging and for people to feel they can get involved in this conversation. I think if you don’t think something is real, it makes it very difficult to kind of care.”

Many of us aren’t even aware of the extent of waste we produce. This is a particularly prevalent problem regarding greenhouse gas emissions: “if you could actually see these gases there literally would be bubbles of CO2 coming out of cars and boilers and power stations and everything, it would actually get more people involved in thinking that we need to do something about this.”

Bubbling with ideas

Originally, the company was called Carbon Visuals and it prominently focused on the issue of carbon emissions. As the company began to grow, they rebranded to Real World Visuals as its projects now encompass a wider range of environmental issues.

 

Antony created  Real World Visuals with Creative Director, Adam Nieman whose speciality is helping people to understand data. Antony tells us, “Adam came up with the term called ‘concrete visualisation’.
real-world-visuals-co2-visualisation“Most data visualisation is abstract, if you look at a graph, or a pie chart, that’s giving you information. Granted, this turns numbers into a picture, but it’s an abstract picture. Our belief is that this a very good way of understanding data, you can quickly see information if you look at graphs, but it tends to help, in fact, it’s probably essential that you’re already interested.”

“It can be a really useful to get people who aren’t thinking about this more engaged”

 

Adam’s coined term ‘concrete visualisation’ essentially means turning data into something you can physically see in a landscape that the audience are familiar with. This, in turn, can create an emotional response, which is the first step in encouraging us to make a change.

Visualising Bristol’s waste

Real World Visuals is Bristol based and so have carried out a few projects to do with the region.

There are currently two projects you can check out on Real World Visuals’ website: Visualising Bristol’s Waste and UWE campus emissions brought to life.

“The success for us would be if Bristol’s recycling improves and if people drop less litter”

 

Antony talked us through the aim of the projects, “we want people to be engaged.” He explains Bristol Waste Company got in touch because “they wanted to have a more direct relationship with households and the people of Bristol. Getting people to understand the actual amount of litter and recycling so you know how much recycling is happening, and how much more could be happening and the success for us would be if Bristol’s recycling improves and if people drop less litter.”

Check out this video to see how much waste we produce in Bristol:

The short film illustrates the volume of material recycled by households weekly and annually. The twist is this also visualises how much recycling we haven’t done and therefore highlights the missed opportunities to help the environment.

Real World Visuals is also doing a project for UWE, but this one is a little different. Real World Visuals developed a prototype visualiser so staff and students alike can see monthly and annual emissions data associated with each building; hopefully to prompt people to make an effort to reduce this.

Antony elaborates, “Again, that can be a really useful to get people who aren’t thinking about this more engaged and therefore helping to reduce emissions in ways that they can.”

You can have a look for yourself at UWE’s carbon consumption at Real World Visuals’ website.

Conquering the world

The ambitious team want to continue to influence people globally. Real World Visuals has already completed a project on New York’s carbon usage and plans to work with people across the pond again soon. In fact, Antony tells us the team have been doing a collaboration with the US government that they hope to release shortly – keep posted for more details on this soon!

Real World Visuals is also planning to do another project with the South American UN proceeding their UNEP ozone layer campaign.

As the UWE campus emissions project is triumphing, the team want to continue similar work elsewhere, “We are wanting to do more projects like the one we’ve done for UWE, so were actively talking to other universities in this country and ones abroad too.”

Impact of electric

Real World Visuals has also taken an interest in electric cars, “They have started to come on the market and so we want to help potential buyers understand the environmental impact of other cars versus electric cars.”

But this isn’t all! Ireland is currently undergoing an initiative to cut emissions from electricity generation, transport and buildings by 80% in 2050 in comparison to 1990 levels, and Real World Visuals has developed a visual interface web-tool. Thanks to a collaboration with The Energy Institute in Ireland, the web tool can enable anyone to discover the different options for the future of electricity and energy resources. The idea is to educate – so you can check it out now with My2050!

If you’d like to get involved with Real World Visuals, Antony says, “We are always open to collaborative working with others though we are unable to create visuals without funding or ideas on how to get funding.” So, if you have any ideas for Real World Visuals don’t hesitate to contact the team.

Thanks to Antony for taking the time to chat with us. You can check out Real World Visuals’ website for some powerful animations which may make you think twice about your waste, and you can also follow them on Twitter: @RealWorldVis

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.