The app, Waste Journal is a tool to help people document the waste they produce and reduce. Users are able to take pictures of trash, compost, and recycling to be added to their log. They can analyze their trash patterns to evaluate potential Zero Waste swaps such as metal water bottles and tote bags.
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My targeted audience is university students aged 18-24. I want to learn more about the routines of university students, more specifically their eating habits on/off-campus. University students are always on the go to their next destination on campus, and it is difficult to find time to sit down to have a meal. This results in an accumulation of to-go snacks, take out drinks and food paired with plastic utensils and straws. There is no doubt that single-use plastics provide convenience and make basic necessities every more accessible. A majority of the interviewees are part of the ADM faculty. The building is a 3-minute walk from the well-known, Canteen 2.
How many meals do you eat on campus?
Do you recycle your plastic?
Can you recycle used plastic containers and utensils?
Have you heard of the movement to remove straws?
If there was a strawless option, would you opt for it?
What do you know about plastic pollution?
How often do you order takeaway/buy your meals during the day?
How often do you purchase cold drinks and use a plastic straw?
Do you eat at the canteens on campus?
When given the option of plastic or metal utensils, which do you choose?
Do you pay the extra $0.20 for a takeaway box?
What container is your morning coffee/tea in?
Do you use a reusable bottle for your water?
Have you heard of the 3 Rs?
Have you noticed the signs at Canopy Coffee Club to defer straw usage?
Have you seen signs around campus promoting sustainability?
Do you order from food delivery services?
The overarching themes from the majority of the answers centralized around efficiency, convenience and affordability. All the actions of the interviewees were influenced by theses factors. The majority of the students that were interviewed were exchange students. A lot of these interviewees came to Singapore with the mindset of buying everything they need here in order to pack light.
The interviewees with early morning classes are always short on time in the morning and do not have time to sit down in the canteens for breakfast. Due to the constant heat, iced drinks are commonly consumed during meals and during classes. Students occasionally pay the $0.20 charge to take their meals to go. The interviewees are aware that climate change is getting worse and worse. But it is a distant problem. Students who live on campus eat a majority of their 3 meals a day on campus. These meals are between classes and limit the time to eat.
Some of them were not aware of the plastic waste that they produce on a daily basis. On average at least one drink is consumed daily. The cups that are given are designed to be accompanied by a straw. Their choice of stalls is influenced by the quality of the food. Those popular stalls do not always offer reusable cutlery and plates even though their customers are sitting down to eat.
Only two interviewees occasionally brought their own cutlery and straws. The others would choose the metal utensils if they were sitting down to eat but sometimes accidentally take the plastics ones out of habit and proximity. However, almost all of the interviewees regularly used reusable water bottles. On occasion, students get tired of the canteen food and order food from delivery services such as Grab and Deliveroo. These services come with one-use utensils and plastic or styrofoam containers. The trace of plastic waste in canteens is quickly cleared away by the efficient staff. Students rarely see mounds of trash that are produced during food service hours.
In conclusion, there is a clear issue with the single-use plastics on the NTU campus canteens. There is space for students to change their routines and to reduce their single-use plastic consumption.
How to introduce behavioural changes in students’ daily routines.
How to teach the lasting impacts of single-use plastics?
Create a guide that helps students sort their plastics.
What incentives can be used to get students to switch to reusable cutlery and straws?
Briefly explain your experience going through Dialogue in the Dark. What were some of your feelings, thoughts, challenges and insights gained while role-playing as a blind person?
I’ve had to rely on my glasses ever since second grade. My vision progressively gets worse every year and it is always a lingering fear that I will lose my vision all together. This experience was surreal. I felt so vulnerable that I could not rely on my sense of sight to navigate. The biggest challenge was trying to anticipate my surroundings— I was wrong every time. This experience made think about the purpose of handrails, textures, and sound in designing for blind people. Even though we were told the simulation was on flat ground, I was still scared to walk fast and fall. The boat and crosswalk simulation were the scariest. There were so many distracting sounds: traffic, waves, talking, it made it hard to focus on how to navigate and there was a fear of getting lost.
Drawing on your experience, can you think and list some specific benefits inherent in the design research technique of role playing?
Designing beyond our own scope of experiences is essential to creating products that are inclusive of everyone.
This emphasizes the importance of understanding your demographic and conducting extensive primary and secondary user research and testing.
Can you think of some contexts where role-playing can be useful to help discover and define design challenges or contribute to the development of deisgn solutions?
Role-playing creates empathy. It gives the designer a different perspective on how their designs will be interacted with. When designing experiences, it must be human-centred. A design is deemed useless if it fails to work for its audience. This role-playing experience is a reminder that the first step to the design process is to discover the issues that need solutions.
What are some current issues confronting our world today? Amongst them, what is of interest and a cause of concern to you?
An overarching theme in my topics of interest is Sustainability. I am most interested in Plastic Pollution.
Single-Use Plastics— Plastic Pollution
Climate change has been a lurking dread that is looming over Earth. With the boom of globalization, products are cheaper and more accessible. However, there is a cost: increasing carbon emissions. According to the United Nations, we need “… to cut emissions by half by 2030, and reach net-zero emissions by 2050”. Recycling is no longer an effective way of reducing waste: only 9% of plastic is recycled and the rest is incinerated or ends up in the ocean. The fight against single-use plastics can start from the consumer and slowly move its way up the supply chain.
Indonesia and Malaysia make up 90% of the world’s palm oil production. The rise in demand for this vegetable oil is due to its ability to substitute more expensive oils. Due to this rise in demand, over 9,600,000 million hectares of land were converted to industrial oil palm farms. Rapid deforestation leads to endangered native animals and increasing carbon emissions. With the loss of rainforests, this results in a loss of carbon sequestration. Local farmers become collateral as their livelihoods are put on the line if palm oil becomes banned.
The zero-waste lifestyle has been taking social media by storm. Companies are starting to market packaging that is supposedly ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’. But, what is considered to be green and eco-friendly? Companies that claim to have sustainable practice but no evidence is found in their supply chain. They are profiting off a buzzword. Companies are creating cloth bags, stainless steel straws, bamboo utensils etc. But in reality, these products are very resource-intensive and are all part of the “perfect image” of being zero waste. Not all people can afford to go zero-waste: there is a clear economic barrier.
There is a lack of accountability in the fast fashion industry: supply chains use unethical labour and raw materials. This industry is the second largest user of water in the world and produces 20% of the world’s wastewater. Fast Fashions create over 1 billion garment items a year and a majority of them are thrown to landfills; leading to chemicals, and microplastics leaching into soil and water.
Why is the issue important? Who does it affect and how?
The topic of climate change and pollution has been talked about so much in the media, that people have become desensitized to it. It builds the mentality of “I’m only one person. I can’t make a difference”. Plastic pollution affects everyone. Although plastics provide convenience and livelihood to many, especially in developing countries where plastics are the cheapest resource to use, they take a big environmental toll.
The rapid consumption of goods has a hidden cost to its convenience. Every-day functionalities heavily rely on single-use plastics. The United States throws away an estimated 100 billion plastic bags annually. Single-use plastic cutlery, single-use plastic plates, bags, and straws are all examples of everyday plastics. 91% of plastics are not recycled — that is 6.3 billion metric tons. Due to the size of straws and cutlery, recycling facilities cannot sort them and they end up in landfills or in the ocean. In our linear economy where everything is built to be discarded, the plastic we create comes back to haunt us through microplastics and harming marine life. The beginning of the solution is to ban single-use plastics, create economic incentives, and educating. Instead of reduce, reuse, recycle, think REFUSE, reduce, reuse, recycle.
The target audience of the issue of plastic pollution can be any part of the linear supply chain of goods.
Consumers can choose to refuse plastics in their daily routines and adopt reusable replacements for single-use plastics. A niche is the zero-waste/ low waste demographic: they are people who adopt a lifestyle where they do not purchase goods in packaging. Instead, they purchase their goods second hand and from bulk stores. This demographic needs resources to help market and educate others to understand their lifestyle and the benefits of living a low waste lifestyle.
“It might be true that single-use plastics might be cheaper than some renewable or compostable resources but it’s not really cheaper, because when you think about the environmental externality, that is attached to the cheapness there is no economic sense. “ Kifah Marin, UN Development Program
Companies can choose to adopt more sustainable practises and start to use renewable and compostable resources for their products. They would need economic incentives and sustainability professionals to provide consultations in order to improve their practises.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Anne Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef.
How has visual communication contributed to addressing the cause?
Cover by Jorge Gamboa, National Geographic, Print, 2018
The National Geographic published this cover to bring light to the issue of plastic trash crisis. The message is very clear: it says that the plastic trash crisis is much more serious that we think. The plastic in the water may also imply that beyond large pieces of plastics, there are microplastics negatively affecting marine life wellbeing. The colour choice works well with conveying the cold hard truth climate change. It utilizes contrasat very well to guide the viewer’s eye.
Try to digest it, Natalya Zhurakovskaya, Studio 100%ART , 2019
This magazine cover series brings attention to the epedmic of humans and marine life consuming microplastics. It juxtaposes clean and studio photos with jarring imagery of everyday food made with plastic. These covers are very engaging because of the use alarming imagery against a white background. The layout of the photography guides the viewer to see the main peice, plastic food and then the text surrounding it.
This poster was used in a National tap water campagian called Refill in the UK. It promoted bringing your own bottles for water and to curb plastic bottle usage. It uses a soft pastel pallete to make it look inviting. It does a great job with pairing jarring facts about pollution with friendly graphics.