GIScience team wins Climate Hackathon with App on reducing CO2 emissions of research groups

Last weekend the Germany wide Climate Challenge Hackathon organised by Scientists4Future Heidelberg and the Goethe-Institute took place as an online event. Just like last years Climathon, GIScience Uni HD participated with a team. This year the team was supervised by Christina Ludwig and fortunately was able to convince the jury with their idea on how to measure, visualize and reduce CO2 emissions of institutes or working groups.

Watch our pitch video here!

WePledge Pitch

The project idea was created and handed in by a recently formed sustainability group of the GIScience research group HD that joined forces with researchers from the “Sustainble University” working group of Scientists4Future Heidelberg, which aims at creating synergies between sustainability efforts of different institutes in order to create efficient tools to sustainably reducing the carbon footprint of the university. The motivation of these efforts is that the work-related carbon footprint can be multiple times higher than our targets defined in the Paris agreement. For instance, shocking results were presented for 2018 for the Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg in an assessment that finds, that work-related greenhouse gas emissions per researcher were three times higher than the emissions which are necessary to reach the German target for 2030 (Jahnke et al. 2020).

The WebApp “WePledge” should enable academic institutes, businesses or other organizations to assess and monitor their carbon e-footprint, which is necessary to take effective and tangible measures to collectively lower emissions. Results of the assessment will be communicated in diverse visual ways and participants will get targeted suggestions on climate action. The project is community-centered and focuses on empowering instead of shaming. The app should also allow to monitor progress and let users positively compete with other participating institutions.

During the hackathon, we identified the main categories the tools should cover, worked out a draft of questionnaires and addressed challenges like data gaps. Thanks go out to our supporting experts Yatwan Hui and Johanna Lehtmets for their valuable advice on how to increase user engagement.

With the price of 3000€ sponsored by the Goethe Institute we are excited to put the project idea into reality now!

Jahnke, K., Fendt, C., Fouesneau, M. et al. An astronomical institute’s perspective on meeting the challenges of the climate crisis. Nat Astron 4, 812–815 (2020).

Ref to last year: Climathon Heidelberg 2019 Winner