How might we make using reusable cups as convenient as disposables which leads to a behaviour change?

Design for environmental impact, Design Research, Design Strategy, Design for behavioural change, Human Centered Design
Design Research, Concept Development, Prototyping, Design Lead.
Akhil Chopra, Devanshi Sihare
Jan'18 - Present

According to studies, by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. 83% of tap water samples tested in 12 nations were found to be contaminated by plastic fibers. According to the Clean Air Council, enough paper and plastic utensils are thrown away every year to circle the equator 300 times. It is estimated that close to 40 billion individual plastic utensils— meaning 14 and 18 billion plastic spoons—are produced each year, and with such low rates of reuse and recycling, most of them end up in our landfills, beaches and oceans. They are likely to remain there for hundreds of thousands of years. This astounding figure gives businesses an easy opportunity to show their customers they authentically care about the environment by doing away with these unnecessary pollutants and replacing them with environmentally friendly utensils.

Defining the Problem

50% of the $1.2 trillion

that Americans spent for food went to food taken out from restaurants or delivered to their homes in 2009

229.2 million tons

of municipal solid waste, generated by the USA, in 2001 and 32% of that was attributed to different food packaging materials

400 Million cups

used by Americans to drink coffee each day, more than any other nation in the world

$232 billion

was the market size of Global food container in 2015, and growing annually.

Keeping in mind concepts of systems thinking and eames’ brothers power of ten, we decided to focus on closed ecosystems, such as universities. University campuses provide advantage of restricted geographical boundaries, centrally controlled environments and limited, but more engaging user base, making it conveniently efficient for providers and users alike.

The New School is known to be the flag-bearer in environmental sustainability. But even in their cafeteria we observed students using disposables when reusable options were available. We noticed that about 104 plastic cups were used in the manner of 15 minutes during peak hours. On an average, 700 plastic cups are used in a single day. Since there are 10,00 students and faculty in the New School, if they use one single use cup everyday to drink a beverage, it leads to severe wastage!

Behaviour Analysis

We identified specific behaviors that lead to students preferring disposable cups over reusable cups and then brainstormed on the strategies that can be used to influence behavior change.

There is too much effort in carrying own reusables.

Using disposable cups requires no effort, they can be easily picked up and thrown away without much thought and effort.

Prevalent notion that disposables are hygienic.

People don’t trust reusable cups’ cleanliness and tap water, which leads to many buying bottled water regularly.

Disposables are convenient and commitment free.

Using disposables means not having to worry about returning it or cleaning it.

Ideation and Engagement Strategies

To combat the above mentioned behaviours and to make reusable cups as convenient as disposables, we designed a reusable mug pick up and drop off station, called Re.Do, available in university campuses for students and staff. Think sharing economy for mugs.

Prototype & Iterations

To test out this concept, we spoke to students and staff at The New School. We also sent out a university wide survey to get a fair understanding of how our target persona interacts with this concept and what doubts they have about it.

Development and Evolution

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