Post D: the story of some leaves on the street

Greenwich, Connecticut. An organic waste management initiative called ‘Nature’s Treasure’ started with the simple need of reducing leaf piles from the street. For several reasons the leaves became an issue. They are narrowing the streets, blocking drains and creating slippery conditions in rain. Managing the leaves is time-consuming and therefore expensive, also the leaf blowing is burdensome to people with asthma and allergies.
So the administration of Greenwich wanted to face this issue by using these leaves as a natural fertiliser. Therefore the leaves were shredded on site enhancing soil structure, microbial balance and moisture capacity. Not only this approach saves a lot of time and money, also it creates a much healthier yard for children and pets. The lack of usage of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides has a big impact on ground water quality, air quality and soil quality.
While the initiative in the beginning was intended for property owners — by having leaf pickup points nearby – it expanded quickly to other neighbourhoods and town-owned properties, especially schools. During the development of the waste management it turned out, having a compost containing leaves and food scraps from the school cafeterias is a perfect combination for having a good working compost. Today — after only two and a half years — the program developed so far within the society, that the Conservation Commission Staff designed a program which includes waste sorting in school cafeterias and organic waste management into the school curriculum and educates the children by raising awareness in the field of organic waste.
This small narrative shows a perfect example of how a well-designed system around a problem can develop and change behaviour in a very short amount of time. The benefits of this treatment are innumerable, while the effort of dealing with it stays relatively small.
abfall-ressourcen_entsorgung_bioabfallbehandlung_cimg1652wheel-loader turning compost on a rubbish tip
On a national level, the Federal Environmental Agency of Germany is dealing amongst other topics with waste management all over Germany. In 2012 the Kreislaufwirtschaftsgesetz law was the first federal statute to require organic waste to be collected separately. Municipal decision-makers are provided with advice concerning the organic waste management by the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU) and the UBA titled Ecologically sustainable recovery of bio-waste.
Besides governmental decisions, the amount of organic waste management companies is growing rapidly. The range reaches from products dealing with organic waste to consulting agencies developing a waste management plan for all kind of organisations.
With these insights, it becomes clear that different parts of the system have to work together to develop meaningful approaches. Dealing with organic waste in any case is a rather regional thing, as can be seen by the successful approach of Greenwich. Still the national Government has the possibility to lead in different directions by defining boundaries and providing useful information. The tools which can be used to enhance the situation can be partly provided by different companies specialised in the field of organic waste. A collaboration within these different parts of the system can lead to a fruitful ground enhancing the future of our environment

Greenwich Free Press 2016, Organic Waste Management Program in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, viewed 15 June 2017 <>
Greenwich Free Press 2016, Jackpot! Black Gold Discovered in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, viewed 15 June 2017 <>
Federal Environmental Agency of Germany 2017, Dessau, Germany, viewed 16 June 2017, <>
Waste Management Inc. 2017, Chicago, USA, viewed 16 June 2017 <>
AJM Disposal Services Ltd. 2017, Vancouver, Canada, viewed 16 June 2017 <>

Post C: reflection on data methods

Design research is about understanding real people in the context of their everyday lives and then using what we learn to inspire our work. – Dan Perkel

This quote from an article written by Dan Perkel – one of IDEOs design researchers – for me communicates the importance of research in a design process very well. Most things we design are designed for any kind of interaction with people. This interaction has many layers and can reach from operability, maintainability or just aesthetics. Strong focus on “human-centered-design” therefore is just obvious. High quality and more important the right research helps to raise empathy for processes and the intersection points with humans.
Within the design project, me and my group have undertaken several types of research methods. While thinking of a lot more research methods we wanted to use in the first place, our brief and design process broke the methodologies – in terms of quality and need – down to five different research methods.
Initially, a lot of the first steps in the design process were supported by observation. After considering various parts of the big system UTS the observation of the common areas of UTS Housing cleared an interesting path. While the kitchen facilities both in studios and the common areas are pretty good, the experience which came living at UTS Housing showed that an awful amount of students tend to eat outside. Further, it could be seen, that occurring leftovers are most likely chucked in the bin, rather than storing them or sharing them with other students. Also in the ongoing design process observation turned out to be a key research method for ideating and evaluating.
For me, the most useful research method undertaken was auditing and mapping visually how the waste system works at UTS Housing. Therefore the centre of the audit was “waste”, while around it every aspect which contributes to waste in any way was considered. This led from the people and the community with different values, attitudes and backgrounds, over the infrastructure and the areas provided, to the point of acquisition of the food and the disposal. The biggest outcome of this mapping was, that we could use this audit both for generating and evaluating our ideas from different starting points and literally see, what effect on the system it could possibly have.
Surveying and visual analysis
As we were focused on UTS Housing Yura in the beginning, once having a specific idea we considered surveying combined with visual analysis as a research method to go with. Therefore people over the different housing have been surveyed with four short questions about how they deal with organic waste and their attitude of eating. Also, we were able to have a look at urbanest to see if the circumstances are similar in other student accommodations besides UTS Housing. By using these research methods we were corroborated by the value of our idea and it helped us specifying our final outcome of the design project.
Market analysis
As the idea got more and more specific, we were able to have a look at different approaches which have been undertaken within the same field we were in. Therefore we had a look at other housings from different universities and in different countries, different waste management systems in other organisations than UTS, and spread the research over to food sharing and food waste preventing platforms in general. It turned out that there are different approaches with varying success and showed us the urgency of the need for solutions in this area.
Down the road, the research part of this design project confirmed my opinion of the importance of research for me. Still, it was a different perspective within this class, because it was my first experience having every freedom of a university project you could possibly have. As everyone, I have seen a lot of (university) projects plus I have seen the work area through my six-month internship in Munich, and I have to say in its own way this project was unique. Without focusing on research especially in the beginning, the project and therefore our brief would have gone nowhere.

IDEO Labs 2014, Dan Perkel, Digital Tools for Design Research: 16 new ways to improve human-centred design, viewed 10 June 2017, <>
adaptive path 2013, Adaptive paths guide to experience mapping, viewed, 10 June 2017 <>
User Testing Blog, Spencer Lanoue, IDEOs 6 Step Human-Centered Design Process: How to Make Things People Want, viewed 14 June 2017, <>

Post B: Caddie Liner Design reflection

The first part of the group project was developing a fold using newspaper, which then can be used as a container for organic waste within a desktop caddie. This folding technique should be communicated by a poster and/or video instruction.


  screenshot of the instruction video

As the brief was quite defined, there was not much space for ‚going crazy‘ on the design part. Therefore it was more likely a good exercise for figuring out how the group work takes place in general – getting to know the different strengths and weaknesses of your teammates and how their specific design discipline contributes to the subject. As designers we all ‚speak the same language‘, but still have an expertise e.g. in visual thinking and communicating, 3-dimensional thinking, a sense for different materials and working with these or going from flat surfaces to shapes. Beyond our expertise the group charter helped me personally to also get to know my teammates a bit better in terms of what values they have, what kind of a project attitude they developed in their studies, or in general what kind of persons they tend to be.

Image uploaded from iOS

personality cards – getting to know your team

In connection to designing solutions for organic waste systems an interdisciplinary design team can be a fruitful ground for developing sophisticated approaches. Industrial designers for example have a more developed understanding of different materials and how they affect waste, whilst communication designers are e.g. experts in putting information into graphics, meaning that e.g. a visual approach of an organic waste system helps the viewer to understand how the organic waste system works.

Speaking of systems, as part of the Interdisciplinary Design Lab class we read, thought and talked a lot both in class and within the groups about design and system thinking therefore using techniques such as audits or the critical system heuristics (CSH). This gave us a sense of the dimensions of systems and the influences different parts of a system have on other parts of a system. With regards to the caddie design, although the system ist due to the defined task not that extensive, it was useful outlining the whole process of the user interaction with the caddie. This means not only thinking of an easy and fast fold, that it contains enough food without dripping and that it fits into different caddie sizes but also what happens before and after that – where does the newspaper come from, is there a common type of newspaper, how do you get the organic waste out of the caddie and transport it afterwards, what effect hast paper on organic waste, …

As a designer I personally think you have to be aware of as many parts of the system you work in as possible because eventually you will interfere with different parts of the system or smaller subsystems. Clearly it’s not that you use every single information you gather in the end – at least not directly. It’s more like to develop a general sense and (gut-)feeling, something you cannot describe in words or with your conscience and knowledge, about your design and what kind of impact it has or may have. Remaining this holistic view helps in designing meaningful things, evaluating approaches, communicating with clients and your design team and beyond that many other things which makes system thinking methods a very powerful tool.


soft system methodology [and not methology ;-)]

Checkland P. & Poulter J. 2007, Learning For Action: A Short Definitive Account of Soft Systems Methodology, and its use for Practitioners, Teachers and Students, 1st edition, John Wiley and Sons Ltd., Chichester, England

Donald, N.A. & Stephen, D.W. 1986, User Centered System Design, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, New Jersey

Polprasert, C. 1989, Organic waste recycling, John Wiley and Sons Inc., New York, NY

Systems thinking: a cautionary tale (cats in Borneo) 2014, motion graphic, Sustainability Illustrated <>

the widely defined word “organics”


from greek organon „instrument“
from Latin organicus, from Greek organikos „of or pertaining to an organ, serving as instruments or engines,“

1510s „serving as an organ or instrument“
1778 „from organized living beings“
1942 „free from pesticides and fertilizers“

Pertaining to or dervied from living organisms

Pertaining to an organ of the body of a living organism

Relating to the compounds of carbon
Relating to natural products

Of food or food products, grown in an environment free from artificial agrichemicals, and possibly certified by a regulatory body.

Describing a form of social solidarity theorized by Emile Durkheim that is characteri- zed by voluntary engagements in complex interdepencies for mutual bene t (such as business agreements), rather than mechanical solidarity, which depends on ascribed relations between people (as in a family or tribe).

Of a military unit or formation, or its elements, belonging to a permanent organization (in contrast to being temporarily attached).

Acting as instruments of nature or of art to a certain destined function or end.

Internet (search results)
Generated according to the ranking algorithms of a search engine, as opposed to paid placement by advertisers.

– figuratively – 

Organic writing
Organic shapes

“Organic work process.”

“The production came together in an organic whole.”