This NYC pop-up uses augmented reality to teach visitors about sustainability


It’s one thing to tell someone about sustainability, but it’s another thing entirely to show them.

And that’s exactly what Arcadia Earth aims to do. The New York City pop-up features 15 high-tech (and highly photogenic) rooms that let visitors feel, smell, hear and see their way through a lesson in environmental awareness.

The 14,000 square foot exhibit was created by designer Valentino Vettori, who got the idea after visiting a sustainability event in Los Angeles. Vettori told In The Know that the goal of his pop-up is to take people on an “immersive journey with a focus on what customers can do.”

“Currently, we talk about sustainability in a very negative way, so people don’t connect,” he said. “And also, we don’t really tell them what to do.”

But the exhibit does a lot more than telling. Arcadia Earth uses virtual reality and augmented reality — through an iPhone-friendly app that lets visitors “see” deer prancing around them or walk through an ocean full of fish.

According to Vettori, every room highlights a different “challenge and opportunity,” with each one focusing on a new way consumers can reduce their environmental impact. The final stop, called the “vow room,” urges visitors to make a practical change in their daily lives.

“The intention of the room is to give a summary of what are the four most important actions that anyone can take to fight climate change — or at least, [the ones I believe are],” Vettori told In The Know. “The four actions are eating less meat or a plant-rich diet, wasting no food, [to stop using] single-use plastic, and to start shopping responsibly by choosing companies that care about our future.”

Vettori notes that in Greek, the word Arcadia means “harmony with nature,” a value he hopes his visitors will better understand by the time they leave. That too is a philosophy that translates to the creation of the exhibit itself — everything in the installation is made of entirely recycled and upcycled goods.

“The purpose of Arcadia is to raise awareness on sustainability,” Vettori told In The Know. “And I’ll be happy if the majority of the people leave the event with one commitment, one vow, one change in their daily lives for a better planet.”

How to visit Arcadia Earth

The pop-up is located in New York City’s Noho neighborhood and is open every day except for Tuesdays. Visitors are encouraged to download the exhibit’s iPhone app before arriving, but there are limited iPads available for those who don’t have an iPhone.

Anyone ages six and older are encouraged to visit, and the experience typically lasts for 45 minutes, according to Arcadia’s website.