Blog Post D: Literature Review

In order to create a relevant design solution for reducing organic waste within UTS housing, our group researched approaches taken by other universities within their housing complexes. One of the most inspiring examples was the sustainability guidelines of Colorado State University. The initiative is titled “Green Dining” and targets multiple aspects of the production, consumption and waste process associated with food. It must be noted that on-campus dining halls give the university a greater amount of control, as well as responsibility over student’s interaction with food waste. Aspects of the “Green Dining” initiative include use of locally produced and seasonal produce, produce grown on-campus, compostable to-go containers and a staff member from the “Green Guard” group whose aim is to reduce waste associated with student dining. Through tray-less dining, students “produce less than half a cup of food waste per meal,” (Colorado State University 2017) a drop of approximately 40%. Interestingly, it is noted that audits have been used as a method of data collection as well as an education tool.

“Food waste production per student has been determined by the plate waste audits which are conducted each semester as a way to educate students on plate waste and provide benchmark data.” (Colorado State University 2017)

In addition to prevention, schemes are also in place to compost or divert leftover food to the less fortunate. The statistics are reflective of the significance of these measures.

“In 2016, more than 116,308 pounds of food was donated by the dining centers and Mountain Campus. Non-perishable food donations are also collected from students as part of the Leave it Behind program at the end of the academic year to be donated to the food bank.” (Colorado State University 2017)

“Through both pre and post-consumer food waste diversion efforts (composting pulpers) Dining Centers operated by HDS have a 93% diversion rate of food waste from the landfill.” (Colorado State University 2017)

The Victorian Government’s “Love Food, Hate Waste” campaign takes a similar preventative approach to that shown by Colorado State University, as well as our group project. The website is a valuable tool in providing information regarding responsible consumption, planning & storage of food.

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(Love Food Hate Waste 2017) 

Despite this, information in regard to the consequences associated with organic waste once it is disposed of could be expanded upon. The Waste and Resource Recovery Plan from the Victorian Government emphasises this need for a focus on the disposal of organic waste. Many objectives are listed however initiative six, that of residential organics is of interesting. The objective is listed as “reduce waste to landfill, increase recycling,” (City of Melbourne 2014) listing that 47% of waste from high-rise residents is food waste, while 50% of waste produced from low-rise households is food waste – data collected through audits. The document also mentions “The Victorian Government’s ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ campaign has been designed to educate people about the value in keeping food waste out of rubbish bins,” (City of Melbourne 2014) perhaps implying that more action is needed once this waste is produced. The document highlights resident education (probably an indication of the effectiveness of campaigns such as the ‘Love Food Hate Waste” as mentioned) and demand for services that would enable them to dispose of food waste effectively, that are not provided due to cost & “logistics.”

“High rise residents are seeking a way of composting their waste and some low-rise residents have requested a third bin for organic (i.e. food waste and/or green garden clippings) waste. A three bin system is only practical for residents living in low-rise housing due to logistical issues concerning the management of high rise waste collection. Another way to reduce food waste in the residential garbage bin is to support residents to manage food waste at home. City of Melbourne already provides subsidised compost bins and worm farms to residents. This subsidisation is not widely promoted.” (City of Melbourne 2014)

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(City of Melbourne 2014)

The actions listed mainly focus on trialling new methods and promotion of the “Love Food Hate Waste” scheme already in place. Comparison of the initiatives of the Colorado State University “Green Dining” scheme and that of the Victorian Government highlight the importance of an organic waste management plan that caters to all points of the production, consumption and waste cycle. As organic waste management is such a complex problem, it requires a multifaceted solution that focuses on all aspects of intervention for maximum effectiveness.

City of Melbourne, 2014, Waste and Resource Recovery Plan, Victoria State Government, viewed 5 June 2017, <https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/waste-and-resource-recovery-plan.pdf>.

Colorado State University, 2017, Sustainability, viewed 5 June 2017, <https://housing.colostate.edu/about/sustainability/>. 

Love Food Hate Waste, 2017, Love your food, Victoria State Government, viewed 5 June 2017, <http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.vic.gov.au/love-your-food>.

  

Blog Post C – Research Methods

Observation was not only crucial throughout our process, but also integral to our creation of the brief. An in-class brainstorming discussion allowed Luca to share his observation that students from his housing block wasted copious amounts of leftover pizza, and from here, our idea began to form. Baker, a professor specialising in information-seeking behaviour, describes observation as “the need to study and understand people within their natural environment.” (Baker 2006) Baker also highlights differentiation between participant observation and non-participant observation. The Qualitative Research Guidelines Project outlines Gold’s 1958 four types of participant observer. (Cohen & Crabtree 2006)

  • The complete participant – takes an insider role, is fully part of the setting and often observes covertly.

  • The participant as observer – the researcher gains access to a setting by virtue of having a natural and non-research reason for being part of the setting.  As observers, they are part of the group being studied. This approach may be common in health care settings where members of the health care team are interested in observing operations in order to understand and improve care processes.

  • The observer as participant – In this role, the researcher or observer has only minimal involvement in the social setting being studied.  There is some connection to the setting but the observer is not naturally and normally part of the social setting.

  • The complete observer – the researcher does not take part in the social setting at all.  An example of complete observation might be watching children play from behind a two-way mirror.

    (Gold 1958)

From these categories, Luca would be considered as a complete participant as a resident of student housing, while the rest of us would be considered observers as participants. I feel having a range of different types of observers was beneficial for our group to establish a comprehensive understanding of the problem.

This leads me to address the “Five Why” research method we used to identify our appropriate point of intervention. Once observation helped us to determine our area of interest, we had to decide what aspect to target specifically. As a start, we created a range of maps. One mapped a student’s journey to and from the supermarket, process of cooking, eating their food. Others involved mapping of stakeholders and all the restaurants, supermarkets, cafes and other places housing students would obtain food that would then be disposed of at UTS. This mapping enabled us to understand the problem in a more comprehensive way, therefore when we attempted the Five Why task, we were able to identify the root cause accurately. Our Five Why diagram consisted of the following points:

Students of UTS housing produce a large amount of organic food waste

WHY?

They don’t care about their waste disposal

WHY?

They are uneducated as to the consequences

WHY?

There is a lack of education or even a system for organic waste disposal within UTS housing

WHY?

It requires effort and money to implement such systems

This analysis led us to focus on prevention rather than treatment. We felt that preventing excess food wastage via a social and financially favourable method was more appealing to students and would therefore be more effective.   

In Meadow’s article on leverage points, she mentions the power to add, change, evolve or self-organise system structure, and this is where I believe our project intervenes. 

Meadow states “Self-organization means changing any aspect of a system lower on this list — adding completely new physical structures, such as brains or wings or computers — adding new negative or positive loops, or new rules. The ability to self-organize is the strongest form of system resilience. A system that can evolve can survive almost any change, by changing itself.” (Meadows 1999)

Our solution involved changing the student’s ingrained practice around food consumption and disposal through the incentives of community and free food, communicated through the app. I feel that the app is merely a communication tool to which differing messages could be passed on as the system and social context of housing changes.

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Brainstorming & problem solving sketchnoting in class.

 

We used a variety of other methods including surveying, literature reviews, auditing, mapping and futuring to obtain a clear understanding of the problems of organic waste management within UTS student housing. I have outlined a few in-depth, however our solution would not have been realised without a combination of a range of research methods.

 

Baker, L. 2006, Observation: A Complex Research Method, 171-89, viewed 12 June 2017, <https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/3659/ResearchProcess.pdf?sequence=2>.

Cohen, D & Crabtree, B. 2006, Qualitative Research Guidelines Project, viewed 12 June 2017, <http://www.qualres.org/>

Gold, R. 1958, ‘Roles in sociological field observation’, Social Forces, vol. 36, pp. 213-7.

Meadows, D. 1999, Leverge Points: Places to intervene in a system, <http://donellameadows.org/wp-content/userfiles/

Blog Post B – Reflection & System Design

Our design for the caddie liner in Assessment A aimed to employ the different skill sets of each group member in order to create a comprehensive design. With creation of a poster, video and the caddie design itself, we aimed to reach a broad audience. Utilising our group charter, which highlights the strengths and weaknesses of each member, we were able to combine skills to foster a comprehensive design skills. Room for improvement lies in team communication and organisation and these aspects are being addressed for emphasis within the group charter.

Different design disciplines each offer insights that help to create a comprehensive solution to complex problems such as organic waste management. As discussed by Ulrich, “critical employment of boundary judgements, a concept that has already proven both its critical significance and heuristic power,” (Ulrich, 2000) otherwise known as CHS, is a method of filtering focus. Just as the questions of the CHS direct our focus to specific aspects of a complex problem, I believe the background of each designer does the same. For example, Visual Communications students will see solutions to organic waste management through the filter of graphic design, perhaps responding with branding and marketing strategies to change public attitude. In contrast, Product Design students may see solutions through implementation of newly developed objects to encourage involvement in beneficial practices. As each designer sees problems and solutions through their own specific ‘lens’ (influenced by personal experience, their discipline and various other factors,) combining insights is highly beneficial in creating a comprehensive understanding of issues as complex as waste management as well as potential solutions. Another aspect to this is the ability of designers to critically analyse each other’s work in ways that non-designers may not be able to. Ulrich also discusses issues with personal bias and inability for designers to critique their own work accurately, which can be remedied with a multi-disciplinary approach.

Design thinking should be considered integral to problem solving within complex systems. IDEO’s website states “attempting to solve wicked problems, creative thinkers must design systems that influence people’s behaviour on a mass scale. Every ecosystem is comprised of both micro and macro elements, and when any element gets out of whack, the rest of the system suffers.” (IDEO, 2017) With reference to our subject, the caddy liner can be seen as a micro element, whilst an example of a macro element might be the lack of understanding around organic waste disposal. “Designing Systems at Scale” by Fred Dust and Ilya Prokopoff mentions the interaction between “Mission Pie,” a cafe in San Francisco and “Pie Ranch,” a local acreage. Pie Ranch supplies the cafe with its produce while encouraging workers to sample goods and participate in cultivation. This connection emphasises the importance of the individual, reinforcing their impact and giving them a feeling of worth and power within the larger system.

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(Pie Ranch, 2017) Pie Ranch depicts a sense of community within a system through fundraising and community events.

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(Mission Pie, 2015) Recognises their role within the larger system of food and consumption.

“As both Mission Pie and Pie Ranch have found, the simple task of showing people where their food comes from and pointing to the impact of industrialized farming touches off all sorts of big system challenges, from obesity and education to sustainability and personal food-related attitudes and behaviours.”

(Dust & Prokopoff, 2009) 

The role of creatives in system design lies in their analysis and integration of human experience. Dust and Prokopoff highlight “life is complex, and as designers, business people and other creative thinkers, we must resist both the seduction of simplicity and the safety of Byzantine networks that allow good ideas to fade and humans to be lost or forgotten.” (Dust & Prokopoff, 2009) Designers are crucial to creating systems that consider many aspects of human experience, combining practicality with usability and aesthetics. Reinforcing the importance of the user, Beder states, “A common reaction to the litany of problems attributed to technologies is to argue that the problem is not so much in the technology but in how it is used or abused.” (Beder, 1994) Beder’s essay speaks of the designer’s role in keeping up with the ever-changing social climate, particularly in reference to human interaction with technology. Social, environmental and economical factors are constantly changing, therefore systems and technology (or the individual’s interaction to these) must constantly adapt. This point is crucial in understanding the importance of the designer, as we must use our skills of analysis, problem solving and innovation to constantly respond to changing societal conditions.

Beder, S. 1994, ‘The Role of Technology in Sustainable Development’, Technology and Society, vol. 13, no. 4 pp. 14-9.

Dust, F & Prokopoff, I. 2009, Designing Systems at Scale IDEO, viewed 9 May 2017, <http://5a5f89b8e10a225a44ac-ccbed124c38c4f7a3066210c073e7d55.r9.cf1.rackcdn.com/files/pdfs/news/Rotman_SAS_IDEO_Winter09.pdf>.

IDEO 2017, Designing Systems at Scale, viewed 9 May 2017, <https://www.ideo.com/news/designing-systems-at-scale/>.

Mission Pie 2015, Our Values, viewed 9 May 2017, <http://missionpie.com/our-values/>.

Pie Ranch 2017, Our Programs, viewed 9 May 2017, <http://www.pieranch.org/>.

Ulrich, W. 2000, ‘Reflective Practice in the Civil Society: The contribution of critically systemic thinking’, Reflective Practice, pp. 247-68.

Blog Post A : Organic waste audit

Understanding our individual role within the larger problem of waste management in Australia is crucial in implementing a lasting and worthwhile change. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents that were very conscious of the environment, reusing items & recycling when possible.  Until now, I never really thought about the impact of organic waste on a large scale, with 6.63Mt from a total of 14Mt of organic waste ending up in landfill in 2010-11. (National Organic Waste Profile, 2013)

In conducting my own organic waste audit, I saw much of the waste being used in other ways. The diagram below shows the outcomes of my organic waste for the day.  FullSizeRender.jpg

As a result of analysing my organic waste, I noticed there was less than I expected, as I eat a diet rich in fresh food. I was confused by this until I realised that this was a result of buying mostly pre-packaged food.

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(GroceryCop, 2017)

Shown above is a product I buy frequently from Coles. As the vegetables are already pre-cut and pre-washed, there is no necessary preparation required. This convenience for the customer however, also removes them from the process of disposing of the organic waste. To make these packs, the vegetables must be washed (producing water waste,)  and the scraps from the zucchini, capsicum and carrots must be disposed of (organic waste.)

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Turner highlighted the problem with this removed system of food processing in her essay. In order for individuals to see themselves as important, and capable of producing change they must see themselves as part of a larger system. Above is my audit of one pack of strawberries.

“how the interconnectedness, bodily embeddedness and greater ecological awareness encouraged by engagement with food waste can be capitalised on and extended to people with no history or experience in managing their own food waste” (Turner, 2014)

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Another issue is the plastic packaging that these pre-prepared goods are packed in. In 2015, a petition was conducted to call supermarkets accountable for the amount of unnecessary packaging used on fresh foods. (Law, 2015) Panelists on the video linked discuss the irony of organic food packed in plastic, but also the waste associated with customers who are unable to choose the amount of food they need (and will use) due to pre-packaged, multi-packs.

The EPA conducted an analysis on supermarket waste in 2015 and found plastic wrapping constituted an average of one tonne per supermarket, per year. (Cormack, 2017) Cormack’s video on this page also depicts that consumers may not be given the choice of unpackaged goods.

Turner’s reference to FoodWise is again indicative of the importance of understanding the cycle of waste production and processing. The website contains not only facts and information, but interactive videos for adults and children. This is important in creating individuals who process their waste effectively but also buy more sustainably.

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Understanding is key to change and therefore making the entire process of food production, consumption, and waste management would create a beneficial change. At the ISF book launch, the menu was indicative of this understanding and consideration to sustainability. As the food was locally sourced and vegan, waste via transportation and production was reduced.

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References

Cormack, L. 2017, ‘Australian supermarkets lagging on efforts to reduce plastic packaging’, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 4 April, <http://www.smh.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/australian-supermarkets-lagging-on-efforts-to-reduce-plastic-packaging-20170403-gvcwop.html>.

Foodwise 2017, Do Something, viewed 1 April 2017, <http://www.foodwise.com.au/foodwaste/food-waste-fast-facts/foodwise-articles/composting-2/>.

GroceryCop 2017, Coles Fresh Australian Vegetable Stir Fry Mix Prepacked  350g, viewed 1 April 2017, <http://www.grocerycop.com.au/products/26825/coles-fresh-australian-vegetable-stir-fry-mix-prepacked-350g&gt;.

Law, J. 2015, ‘Customers up in arms about excessive packaging’, news.com.au, viewed 4 April, <http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/customers-up-in-arms-about-excessive-packaging/news-story/21863691c4bf979489bdafd3d32a2d21>.

National organic waste profile 2013, Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian Government, viewed 1 April 2017, <http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/environment-protection/nwp/reporting/organic-waste>.

Organic Waste 2017, EPA, viewed 4 April 2017, <http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/waste/organic-waste.htm>.

Ritchie, M. 2016, ‘State of Waste 2016 – current and future Australian trends’, MRA Consulting Group, viewed 1 April <https://blog.mraconsulting.com.au/2016/04/20/state-of-waste-2016-current-and-future-australian-trends/>.

Turner, B. 2014, ‘Food waste, intimacy and compost: The stirrings of a new ecology?’, vol. 11, no. 1, <http://scan.net.au/scn/journal/vol11number1/Bethaney-Turner.html>.