Online Grocery Shopping Through a Greener Lens

In light of the COVID pandemic, grocery shopping through online means has rapidly grown in popularity. Collaborating in a team of 4, I worked on redesigning the widely used grocery shopping app Instacart to promote more sustainable shopping habits. Specifically, we decided to address this topic because we wanted to help better evaluate the social impact of consumer choices for an everyday behavior like grocery shopping that makes up such an integral part of people's everyday lives.


Jan. 2022 - Mar. 2022
(10 weeks)

My Role

UX Designer


UX Design
UX Research
Final Prototype

The Problem

Ultimately, grocery shopping has quite a large impact on the environment depending on the decisions and behaviors that shoppers decide to take. Many people might want to help to protect the environment but don’t have the time, energy, or sufficient knowledge to actively perform common environmentally friendly practices.

The Challenge

How might we help young/middle-aged adults understand their environmental impact when shopping for groceries so that they can make more eco-friendly and informed purchases?

The Solution

We decided to extend a feature in the Instacart app that promotes sustainable shopping by integrating a Sustainable Shopping mode that brings attention to and awards incentives for users to practice eco-friendly shopping habits, such as purchasing organic/locally grown/seasonal items and choosing paper bag delivery options.


Our target audience consisted of the main user group of Instacart - young to middle-aged adults - as 50% of Instacart users are between the ages of 25-44 years old according to statistics provided by Moloco.

As a whole, our research goal was to better understand how big of an impact environmental factors play into consumer behavior when grocery shopping. We sent out a survey that received over 40 responses and conducted 5 user interviews with individuals that belonged to our target audience.

Key Insights

Through our user interviews, we discovered that a majority of the interviewees did not have a deep understanding of how their grocery shopping habits affect the environment due to a lot of hidden product information and the lack of transparency by grocery stores and apps.

"Things like 'locally grown' or other [information] are not detailed in the [Instacart] app when you're placing an order. Sometimes it doesn't even tell you the size or quantity of items!”

In addition, the interviewees stated that they sometimes prioritize personal benefit over environmental benefit (ex: purchasing a cheaper item in favor of a similar item that is more eco-friendly or opting for plastic bags over paper bags since plastic bags are sturdier and can hold more weight).

Design Explorations

In order to incentivize users to grocery shop more sustainably on Instacart, we wanted to implement a rewards system. In our ideation sessions, we explored different ways to structure the rewards program and ultimately narrowed down on two potential systems.

Design A

In Design A, points are assigned to grocery products that belong to eco-friendly categories (ex: organic, locally grown, seasonal), and users can collect points by purchasing such eco-friendly products. The accumulation of those points can later on be redeemed for discounts, coupons, etc.

Design B

Design B takes on a sustainability score approach which involves assigning a rating to each grocery item on a scale from 1-100 based on how sustainable the item is. At the end of the purchase, an overall sustainability score is given, and if the score is above a certain number, rewards are awarded to the user.

Gathering User Feedback

We tested these two designs on 4 participants, and through testing, we discovered that...

1. Users enjoyed the gamification and rewarding feel to the point-earning system in Design A.

2. The sustainability rating system in Design B made users feel more environmentally conscious about their purchases but raised the potential issue of putting too much pressure on the users and making them feel bad for having a bad score.

As a result, we decided upon implementing Design A since the majority of the user testing participants preferred that rewards system.

More and More Iterations...

We conducted additional testing with our high fidelity prototype to further guide us in making informed design decisions on certain alternative screens that we created.

Rewards Page

During testing, 2 out of 4 users expressed that they would want to see more visuals on the Rewards page to help provide further context on what potential rewards they would be receiving, so we included relevant icons and added more color to the reward card elements as well.

Cart Page - Points Tracker

While testing the prototype, 2 out of 4 participants stated that the display of information detailed in the dropdown menu could be showcased more effectively. Thus, we enlarged the text for easier readability, as well as changing the layout of the points tracker from a status progress bar to a more organized item list format.

Final Design

Shop Eco-Friendly Section

Banner that highlights eco-friendly products is featured on the main Shop page.

Earn Rewards

Accumulate points by making eco-friendly purchases and bagging options to receive rewards like discounts and free delivery.


Back to Business

It was quite a thought-provoking experience trying to explore various approaches to extend a feature of an already-existing app like Instacart. As my team brainstormed potential solutions, I opened my mind to all different kinds of possibilities. However when designing for solutions, it is not only important to consider the needs of the users but also to carefully take business constraints into account.

Our redesign proposal of integrating a rewards system requires Instacart to offer monetary rewards at their own expense. Perhaps, Instacart had previously considered implementing a similar sustainable shopping mode but were unable to follow through with the idea due to limitations in their resources and budget. With that said, this project pushed me to take a step back and really think about how to find the balance between catering to user needs vs. business goals.