Graduate Academic Project
Sustainable Design
Service Design
Systems Thinking
Messaging Strategy
Assess a sustainability problem in its current state, identify a point for intervention, and ideate potential improvements. The solution should address one or more of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
Using a range of traditional and sustainable design strategies, this project focused on improving residential composting rates on the island of Oahu.
Composting is a practice that is still uncommon throughout most of the US, for a variety of reasons such as limited infrastructure and inconvenience. To understand barriers to residential composting and ideate potential scalable solutions, Oahu was chosen as a case study. At the time of this project, the island was at a pivotal point in growing its composting capabilities, while being in urgent need of alternatives to landfilling and incineration.
The project followed the Stanford's design process (Empathize-Define-Ideate-Prototype-Test), focusing primarily on reaching the ideation phase.
Initial research included an assessment of the current system and infrastructure for composting, whether residential or commercial. Waste management in a remote island location is complex and potentially expensive if materials cannot be processed locally, thus any realistic intervention must come with a thorough understanding of exiting options and barriers.​​​​​​​
Additional research included surveys to understand sentiments and awareness around composting, and observations of waste sorting behaviors. 
This helped to define the problems of perception and lack of awareness, and narrow down the specific barriers to address.
Once the specific challenges and point of intervention were determined, this made it possible to pinpoint the stages of the consumer journey and strategies that could be most effective in reaching residents. 
Building interest and demand from residents would be the first step to ensuring the success of existing options before there could be wider expansion. Thus the recommendation was to first focus on effective communication to residents. Strategies would need to address barriers, giving people the confidence that composting is normal/widely encouraged, sanitary, and can be done with minimal hassle.
As a first phase of public outreach, one solution was to partner with restaurants and food service areas that already compost, either voluntarily or due to legal requirements. Focusing on strategies that were public and visible would be an important strategy to normalize the act of composting, provide immediate positive feedback, and make the people aware of the positive actions that are already being taken at the commercial level, as well as how they can participate. It was also recommended to incorporate transformational messaging, such as showing the potential positive impact of composting versus landfilling, as studies have shown this to be a more effective message than simple instructions on waste sorting.
Additional outreach strategies could be further developed to capture people at later stages of the consumer journey.
Much of the research and strategy used for this project became a key component of my graduate thesis.
Back to Top