We’re firmly of the opinion that a well-designed, well-informed infographic can, in some ways, get across information better than the written word. And the man behind Blue & Green Tomorrow’s array is Ben Willers.
Since joining us in January this year, Ben has produced infographics on an array of subjects, including UK renewable energy generation, pollution and waste in local authorities and the Pacific Island nations that are fighting a losing battle against climate change.
He also played an integral part in our Green Investment Bank HQ series, in which produced a recommendation of where it should be located, based on a number of important factors. This is on top of having infographics published in each of our last three in-depth reports, on limitless clean energy, sustainable tourism and sustainable investment.
Ben’s data visualisation brilliance led him to receive an award by David McCandless last year and to be longlisted at this year’s Information is Beautiful Awards. And the best part is that two of his recognised pieces were exclusively designed for Blue & Green Tomorrow.
Regular visitors to our site will have seen us launch our first round of crowdfunding recently, to help fund our next three in-depth reports on sustainable investment, ethical retail and responsible media. In pledging to our cause, individuals will receive rewards based on how much they give us. And everyone who pledges £10 or more will receive an exclusively-designed postcard-sized infographic, made by Ben himself.
We drew back the curtain on Ben (not that we hide him behind one) and caught up with him to find out more about his career and the power of a good infographic.
Where does your love for data visualisation stem from?
I remember reading Information is Beautiful by David McCandless in the gift shop when visiting the Nottingham Contemporary in April 2010, several months before I began my MA and before I had decided what I was going to study. I remember thoroughly enjoying it and I guess it left a lasting impression.
Two of your pieces of work for B> were longlisted at this year’s Information Is Beautiful Awards. Why did you choose to enter each one?
I felt the stories they communicate are really interesting and reveal a lot about how the UK and the world in general has altered over the past three or four decades. Both contain a lot of complex data and reveal patterns that are only highlighted when presented visually.
How did you go about creating the World of CO2 infographic? What was the process?
It is fairly common knowledge that China is the most polluting when it comes to CO2 emissions, but the US is worse per capita. I wanted to explore how these countries compared to the rest of the world and also how trends have changed over time.
And the energy consumption infographic?
I stumbled across this data and immediately wanted to understand it better, so I began assembling a series of charts I quickly made in Excel, then compiled them together into one document and developed it from their.
What makes a good infographic in your eyes?
The goal must be to enlighten the viewer to see something that was not visible before. I prefer it when the reader is provided with an opportunity to identify these patterns themselves, rather than being told what we should be looking for, or how this data should make us feel.
Show us some of your favourite infographics from around the world, and explain why they’re your favourites.
This piece by Michael Deal visualises all the important information from the 2010 World Cup. Each 90 minute match is unique is its own way and I could spend hours comparing the different play styles.
I also like this piece from Nathan Yau which looks at vehicles involved in fatal crashes. It is immediately understandable and the findings are different to what I expected, with fewer accidents in the winter months.
You won an award last year from David McCandless, a real guru in the infographic scene. How did that come about and how did it feel?
I heard about the competition on Twitter, we were asked to visualise the financial crisis in Europe. I tried to make this complex subject as simple as I possibly could and learned quite a lot myself during the process. Having my work featured on a site like that was great!
What was the first infographic you made?
I made a timeline of when certain companies were founded over the last two centuries, it was quite interesting to see how long some like Nokia and IBM have been around.
Any tips for aspiring data visualisers?
Always assume your audience is highly intelligent, but lacking in knowledge of the subject you are covering.
What are you currently working on?
A piece for Al Jazeera which examines how much money has been raised and spent in the run up to the presidential election in the US.
Your work was exhibited in Paris earlier this year. You must have been pleased with that?
It was really great to have work featured in the same place as many other well known and respected designers!
Finally, what impact can a good infographic have on a reader?
They can place a new perspective on things and sometimes reveal things we weren’t even looking for. Of course sometimes they just look really cool!
Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy
Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.
Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.
Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.
How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:
- They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
- They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
- They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
- They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.
Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.
Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use
The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.
Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.
Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers
Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.
Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.
Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy
Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:
- Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
- Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
- Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.
You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.
How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands
Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.
Small waste adds up over time
A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:
- Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
- Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
- Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
- Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.
Going electronic has significant benefits
If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.
Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:
- Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
- Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
- Using financial software to manage your books
- Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
- Arranging digital feedback and review forms
- Making the most of Google Docs
Going green can help you to make money too
Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.
Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.