Imagine exploring the world’s vast and diverse ecosystems, but in the middle of Manhattan.
With its augmented reality technology, the Arcadia Earth exhibit makes this experience possible.
By illustrating how pollution is destroying the environment and threatening human health, the new popup is inspiring people to improve their consumer habits and become involved in the political process. The belief, in their words, is that “small lifestyle changes will have a massive impact on the future of our planet.”
Before the journey even begins, the Arcadia Earth staff prove their dedication to sustainability. In the lobby area there is a station where people can submit plastic bags and film to Trex, a company that upcycles this type of waste into eco-friendly decking supplies.
The walls are covered with facts about environmental issues, as well as instructions on how to interface with the augmented reality. Ambient nature sounds echo all around, and the floor rumbles a bit. It’s like being at the mouth of a cave.
Once you enter, you can use a smartphone or tablet to focus on markings, symbols, statistics and codes placed throughout the exhibit. A successful scan will activate some sort of graphic or animation that augments what you are physically experiencing.
In one of the ocean-themed sections, for example, plastic water bottles will pop onto your screen. Meanwhile a narrator describes plastic pollution and offers advice on how you can reduce it.
Arcadia Earth highlights some of their charitable and business partners by featuring them in relevant sections of the exhibit. In one of the water areas, you can see the logo for Oceanic Global, a nonprofit that raises awareness about ocean conservation. The textiles section dedicates a wall to a sustainable fashion brand, and Arcadia works with Trees for the Future to plant a tree for every ticket sold.
A few rooms host dangling headsets you can strap on. These devices allow you to enjoy an even more immersive augmented reality.
The physical elements of the building are equally impressive. One section is coated in salvaged plastic bags that simulate a reef and act as a haunting reminder of our plastic pollution problem.
The manufacturer of these bags declared they were defective. If it weren’t for Arcadia Earth’s intervention, the products would have been disposed of.
In addition to covering pervasive concerns such as plastic, Arcadia elucidates other significant sources of waste that haven’t received nearly as much media attention. For instance, have you thought about what happens to carpeting in airports?
Conversely, Arcadia is also a celebration of Earth’s natural beauty and bounty. Several stretches of the exhibit display wildlife such as deer and fish. Many of the statistics are about what the Earth and its creatures provide to us humans.
By the time you finish the experience, you’ll be galvanized to protect these natural resources. The exit leads to a shop with sustainable products that show how your everyday purchases can reduce waste and decrease demand for toxic materials. You won’t find one ounce of plastic.
Arcadia Earth says to its guests: “Here’s this beautiful planet that keeps us alive, here’s how we’re hurting it, and here are some simple, easy things you can do to make it better.” Perhaps Arcadia will be the motivation you need to augment your own reality toward something more sustainable.
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