ZenStorming

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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Don’t Make this Mistake when Helping the Environment – How Design Thinking can Help you Change from Plastic to Paper Straws

Posted by Plish on December 10, 2018

When designing solutions for the ‘E’nvironment, don’t ignore the ‘e’nvironment.

What do I mean?

I went recently to a Chicago Wolves hockey game at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL.  Following the lead of the Chicago White Sox (and Shedd Aquarium) who announced they were switching to non-petroleum based straws, the Allstate Arena decided to switch to paper straws.

But, there’s a problem.

They don’t work.

How can a straw not work?

They don’t suck.

Well, actually, they do suck, they suck badly.  (Check out this article for perspectives on how straw changes impact people with disabilities.)

The picture below shows what happens after 15 minutes of use. It’s completely unusable.

lid3

I either have to get another straw (a friend of mine takes two or more now every time he gets a drink) or get rid of the lid altogether (which isn’t always a good idea when people are getting up and down, walking through aisles, dropping popcorn, etc.)

For reference, take a look at a typical plastic straw in a lid from a fast-food establishment (This is what it used to be like at the arena).

goodlid

 

If the solution for replacing plastic straws was derived using design thinking (taking the ‘e‘nvironment into account) as opposed to simply being implemented by decree, none of this would have happened.

What do I mean?

This is what the design thinking process looks like:

fce97

Courtesy of Stanford’s D.School

 

And, here’s how the process for changing the straws should have gone:

  1. Empathy –  Understand how people are using cups and straws and lids.  Watch what people are doing.  Who is using straws the most? Understand the technical aspects of the straw, the lid, the straw/lid interface.  Understand what the straw feels like in the mouth.  What is it like to suck on a paper straw vs. a plastic straw?  I heard a person say, “It feels weird sucking on the paper straw.  It tastes funny.  Eh, I’ll probably get used to it.”  That’s the type of feedback that’s needed.
  2. Define the problem –  Here the problem isn’t just, “Plastic straws are bad for the environment, we need to replace them.”  A better problem statement would be: How can we create a pleasing drinking experience for people using straws, while having a minimal impact on the Environment and minimal cost impact?  The difference between these two statements is that People should be the focus, not the straws.  Their experience is key.
  3. Ideate –  Brainstorm solutions.  If the Empathy phase was done, and the problem statement defined, the solutions that would’ve seemed most viable would’ve come to the forefront.  When they checked with straw (and lid!) suppliers, only certain ones would’ve been chosen.
  4. Prototype –  Obtain straws and lids of all types.  Experiment.
  5. Test/Feedback –  Understand what works and what doesn’t.  See which combinations of straws and lids meet the problem statement:  How can we create a pleasing drinking experience using for people using straws, while having a minimal impact on the Environment and minimal cost impact?

Where did Allstate Arena go wrong?

Pretty much everywhere.

It’s clear that no one took the time to understand the situation, no one took the ‘e‘nvironment into account.

No one realized that because the lid material (Plant based, biodegradable PLA) is much stiffer than the former lids (usually polystyrene), the “X” cut for the straw puts major forces on the straw.  Paper gets wet and soft, and the stronger plastic lid collapses the paper. (Note to Fabri-Kal: use a circular cut in your Greenware lids!)

Instead someone, somewhere said, “Let’s do something good for the Environment.  Let’s blaze a trail and be like the White Sox.  Hank (or George, Tina, etc.), let’s start using paper straws.  See what our supplier has and let’s make the change!!!”

Boom!! Problem solved.  Only it isn’t.

The biggest shame here is that an entire exploratory project wasn’t even required.  A simple 15 minute experiment of taking a cup, putting a lid on it, putting the straw in and drinking would’ve done wonders!  It would’ve been clear that this particular combination of straw/lid is not usable.

Instead, lack of any aspect of design thinking resulted in a solution that is less than adequate.  An opportunity to make a positive change with positive repercussions will now be seen by some as a waste of time and money, as institutions needlessly intruding in people’s lives, of fixing a problem that some may view as non-existent.

A little observation, a little empathy, can go a long way…

EPILOGUE
Now that I know the problem, I fix the situation by poking my finger through the “X” and breaking one of the tabs. I then put the straw in and it works better.   But seriously, should any solution require a person to stick his/her finger through the lid of the cup?

lids2.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Design, design thinking, environment, problem solving, Sustainability | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Simply Taking a Moment to Look at This Will Benefit Your Brain

Posted by Plish on May 29, 2015

forestResearchers have found that simply taking a moment to look at computer generated image of an urban green roof can restore focus and improve performance of tasks.   This adds to the growing body of evidence that shows that exposure to nature has multiple cognitive, emotional and health benefits.

It doesn’t take much. In the case of this study, it took a 40 second break of looking at a computer generated greened roof top.

In short, don’t keep yourself isolated from nature.  Heck, even ‘artificial’ images were beneficial, so put some pictures and plants around if you have no windows. (It can’t hurt 🙂 )

It’s a simple and effective way to recharge!

 

Posted in creativity, health, problem solving, Sustainability, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Some Thoughts on Earth Day – Design a Better World and Walk the Talk

Posted by Plish on April 23, 2015

So often we get caught up in fighting for  causes that we don’t notice that in our zealousness we can betray the very the cause we’re trumpeting.  We can talk about the need to take care of the poor and not actually help the people in our own neighborhoods who are struggling to find food or shelter.

The same thing happens with the environment.  People talk about the importance of cleaner transportation yet people are trading in their electric and hybrid cars in record numbers and replacing them with SUV‘s.  Automakers talk of the importance of electric or hybrids but won’t find a way to make one more affordable than a gas car.  Company owners/CEO’s, actors and politicians talk about their commitment to a greener environment and don’t blink at burning jet fuel as they go from one environmental event to the next.

We have technologies like YouTube that can reach millions with a minimal impact on the environment, yet virtual meetings, press conferences and the like seem like a rarity in the world of environmental concern.

Walk the Talk!

Posted in Authenticity, Design, environment | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Are Crowd Powered Apps a New Invasive Species? – Innovation Creating Collateral Damage

Posted by Plish on December 15, 2014

What do the Cane ToadMosquito Fish  and the traffic app Waze have in common?

Cane Toads (Pic Courtesy of Sydney.edu.au)

Mosquitofish (Pic courtesy of National Geographic)

Waze (Courtesy of Waze)

 

Give up?

The are all innovations that created collateral damage.

Cane Toads were introduced to Australia in an effort to control the Cane Beetle which was destroying sugar cane.  The problem is that the can toad loved the environment and preferred eating anything other than the Cane Beetle.  As a result it is the ‘poster child’ for failed invasive species control measures.

Mosquito Fish were introduced to control mosquitos and in fact were instrumental in controlling Malaria outbreaks in South America, Ukraine and Southern Russia. However, they are extremely aggressive and if not watched, they can wreck aquatic ecosystems because of their competitive nature.

Waze?  I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Heck,  I’ve used it on occasion.  But, it too has solved one problem (helps people get to destinations more efficiently by leveraging the power of the crowd,) and created another: turning quiet streets into major thoroughfares.  As people travelling on the highways of California hit bad traffic, they turn to Waze to find alternate routes.  The result?  Nice, quiet neighborhoods that never used to see heavy traffic now have stifling traffic patterns.

A solution created a problem.

Collateral damage isn’t the only issue here.  The more I thought of this situation, something struck me.  Two of the three above are considered invasive species.  Is the third, Waze, also an invasive species?

Can an app be an invasive species?

An invasive species is a plant or animal that is not native to a specific location (an Introduced species); and has a tendency to spread, which is believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy and/or human health.

Using the above definition, (if we allow for the fact that apps aren’t plants or animals, but instead are used by animals,) can crowd powered apps be classified as a new type of invasive species (Appicus Crowdpoweredus) ?   If so, how are they controlled?  Should they be controlled?  Or the ultimate question:

Can they be controlled?

 

Would love your thoughts!!

Posted in innovation, problem solving, Social Innovation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

EPA (and all of us) Need to Walk the Talk on Earth Day, with an Emphasis on “Walk”

Posted by Plish on April 22, 2014

Earth Day is a perfect day for people and organizations to ‘walk the talk’ about being ecologically friendly with their products and services.  It’s an opportunity to be innovative, to be creative with ways of making an impact on the world, to show that it’s not just talk.

I was extremely surprised then, when I saw that the EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, is jetting on  a week long, Earth Day themed tour.  Seriously.  Jetting?  When the EPA “ask(s) Americans to act on climate change through simple actions to reduce carbon pollution in their daily lives,” shouldn’t the EPA lead the charge by doing things to reduce pollution?

With a little technology and marketing savvy, much more could be accomplished with much less environmental impact.

What would you think of these ideas?

  • A week long walking/bicycling caravan, with blogging of the entire trip.  Participants would be on “Good Morning America”, and other such shows.
  • A week of Skyping various news, daytime  and cooking shows. (Cooking? Heck yeah!! How much food is wasted, and waste created, in kitchens?)   Punctuate the week by having an open brainstorming discussion with Ms. McCarthy to allow the public to share ideas for ways to be more green.
  • Spend each day giving an interview from a mode of public transportation that’s more environmentally friendly.

 St. Francis of Assisi is the Catholic Church’s Patron Saint of the environment (I’ve created a non-denominational pledge to protect the environment, based upon the one in the hyperlink, below) .  There is a saying that is attributed to him that says: “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words.”  In other words, a lived message is more powerful, and preferred, to a spoken one.  Not that words aren’t necessary, but they are the secondary means of getting a message across.

Since environmental change begins within the hearts of people who change their behaviors, encouraging others to take “simple actions to reduce pollution,” while not living that message, is at best a lost opportunity, and at worst, a damaging activity – hurting the message and the environment.

What do you think of the EPA doing this?  What would you suggest would be more powerful from a messaging standpoint?

THE PLEDGE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

I / We Pledge to:

MEDITATE and reflect on the duty to care for the environment and how our decisions can also impact the poor, vulnerable, and voiceless in the world.

LEARN about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of damaging the environment.

ASSESS how we-as individuals and in our families, and other affiliations-contribute to environmental damage through our consumption, waste, etc.

ACT to modify our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to environmental damage.

BE AN ADVOCATE for environmentally protective principles and priorities in environmental discussions and decisions, especially as they can impact people who do not have a voice in these discussions.

Posted in Co-Creation, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, nature, Social Innovation, Social Responsibility, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Road to Ecologically Sustainable Design and the Sacred Space Paradox

Posted by Plish on July 8, 2010

We set things apart for special use all the time.  We keep a special set of plates and silverware for special occasions.  We give those utensils and plates extra special treatment, washing them in special ways, storing them in extra safe locations,  being extra careful not to break or chip them.

On the other hand, the every day stuff we’re more careless with.  We clean the stuff using everyday cleaning methods, and if we break something, it’s okay because we can always replace it. 

There are two different mindsets at work.  In the former case we’re  elevating objects to the level of being sacred.  We’re acknowledging that these objects are special, perhaps even holy.  In the latter, there is a sense of mundaneness – we could say that the objects are profane.  (Anthropologically speaking, sacred/profane is not equal to good/evil.  Sacred/profane can be good/bad, bad/good, etc.) 

Just like we reserve a set of dinnerware for special purposes, it’s been a common practice over the course of the last century or so, for governments to set aside chunks of land and designate them as preserves, as land set aside for a special purpose, as ‘sacred’ land.  While this is usually viewed in a positive light, and it has undoubtedly saved land from misuse and abuse, it has an interesting side effect.

Just as having the dichotomy between special and everyday dinnerware creates two sets of rules in how the dinnerware gets treated, so too, creating nature preserves as separate sacred entities fosters two sets of rules in dealing with the environment.

The two rules are, “Do what you want outside the preserves  as long as you try and minimize your impact on others and the world, but inside the preserves  nothing is allowed except appreciation and minimal interference.” 

The preserves are disconnected from the greater whole and are treated as closed, ‘sacred’ systems.  The rest of the world is viewed by default, not as “sacred” per se, but as profane.  Oh sure, people try to be eco-friendly, but we’re willing to stretch the rules a little bit because after all, we’re not in the middle of a preserve like the Grand Canyon.  Admit it, when you see a cup lying in the gutter of a city it usually doesn’t create the same visceral reaction as seeing the same cup floating down a river, does it?

And that’s the problem.

While the idea of setting aside preserves is indeed noble and well intentioned, is this really what we want?  Wouldn’t it be better if every part of the world was treated as sacred space?  How might a city be different if it treated its ecosystem as sacred as opposed to excusing it by saying, “It’s a city.  It’s okay if it alters the landscape and water absorption and wind patterns.”  Instead, if everything was seen as sacred,  manufacturing and  water purification processes would be designed with the goal of putting water back into the environment at equal or better quality than what they started with!  

This phenomenon isn’t only present on the macro level.  It’s present on the micro-level as well, as hospitals operate Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Architectural Design, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, nature, Politics, Religion, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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