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2014-2015

Carlson, Jared L.
Sports products contribute to the degradation of the environment and there are ways it can be improved to be sustainable. In the United States, “Home to only 4% of the global population, we are responsible for more than 30% of the planet’s total waste generation” (Toxics Action Center). The focus of the sports industry right now is to improve their business models with sustainable focused solutions (Green Sports Alliance). This project demonstrates the process of developing the idea being researched for a rental service for sports protective equipment that improves the ability to reuse, repurpose, and recycle all sports gear. It shows the creation of a product-service system that puts the emphasis on providing access to, as opposed to ownership of, sports products. It explains the use of the Business Model Canvas to develop a sustainable focused start-up idea (Blank). Customer interviews were conducted to develop and validate the proposed start-up business. The plan shows how using Biomimicry to design the sports protective equipment used to provide the service can aid in developing sustainable innovations (Benyus). The proposal of a design solution in the form of a hybrid shoulder pad that could be used for both hockey and lacrosse is outlined. The use of Life’s Principles is illustrated for a preliminary draft of product criteria that work well in product-service systems (Biomimicry 3.8 Institute). This research resulted in the creation of a business model that provides the option to try before you buy. This paper also discusses sports brands that adopt sustainable solutions and how they can use the power of influence to create changes in behavior, as well as the next steps to be taken in order to realize the proposed solutions.
Crawford-Zimring, Michael
Abstract Human impacts on land use, whether from land clearing for agricultural crops or building cities, have caused serious disruption of global and local ecosystems, and are acknowledged as a main driver of biodiversity loss and species extinction. Scientific evidence has shown that biodiversity underpins ecosystem health and function. Ecosystems are complex systems that include plant and animal species, and additionally regulate nutrient cycles including the nitrogen and carbon cycles. These cycling processes are vital to human survival and well- being. Many city agencies are becoming aware of human-induced environmental impacts and are seeking sustainable solutions that focus on resiliency, lowering carbon footprint and providing green infrastructure for citizen well-being. The first part of this thesis provides foundational research to support a design solution that integrates biodiversity into urban areas with the planting of habitat gardens. The second part describes the design, planning and planting of a native habitat garden in Richmond, California. Traditionally, urban landscapes planted by city landscape departments are designed without regard for ecosystem functioning, biodiverse planting choices or understanding of ecosystem performance. Planting this garden required collaboration with a local nonprofit and resulted in the successful planting of the first portion of larger garden that is planned for the future. The replacement of invasive species with native plants has increased the biodiversity and begun to restore ecosystem functioning to a degraded land area. The garden borders a pedestrian walking and bicycle path. The habitat garden is improving the aesthetic quality of the area and is encouraging people to use the path. In addition to aesthetic and health benefits, habitat gardens can provide working and educational models to educate urban citizens about biodiversity. As we think about designing for a sustainable future, the goal of securing ecosystems services and supporting biodiversity is both large and critical. Integrating biodiversity by planting habitat gardens supports urban infrastructure as well as goals for sustainability and resilience.
Dritz, Amy
This research examines the emerging role of sustainable graphic designer. A current gap exists between a small group of highly-motivated sustainable graphic designers and the rest of the industry. The purpose of this study is to identify demand for sustainable graphic design and to understand how prepared graphic designers are to meet this demand. A variety of research methods are used, including job searches, surveys, and interviews. General survey results show a reported increase in the practice of sustainable graphic design, yet few of these designers understand how to practice it. Interviews find that leading sustainable design practitioners are establishing best practices and defining their own roles while they wait for the rest of the industry to catch up. This foundational research suggests that sustainable graphic design is still in the early adoption phase and makes recommendations on next steps to define and build consensus around the practice of sustainable graphic design.
Hutchens, Timothy
How to make single family housing more sustainable. This thesis paper addresses how we can revise the current construction practices to reduce their impact on the environment and move home construction in a more sustainable direction.
Hvistendahl, Jake
The following project was undertaken to design and test an indoor hydroponic growth platform that uses worm composting techniques and hydroponics to re-circulate nutrients and create fresh vegetables directly within the home. This work is necessary because the way we grow, distribute, use, and dispose of food waste contributes to serious environmental and social issues, including food insecurity and greenhouse gas production. The system that was designed is an improvement upon the existing composting garden model. It uses techniques that allow for the two processes of composting and residential gardening to operate indoors, year-round, and without being constrained by climate or geography. This system, called The Living Cupboard, relies upon proven indoor agriculture and composting techniques, and was designed to produce very high yields of fruits and vegetables within a relatively small footprint, while reusing nutrients from the household’s waste stream. During the course of this project, a number of different hydroponic, composting, and artificial lighting techniques were studied to determine optimal configurations for operation under the specific system conditions, each were then evaluated against a set of design priorities. A prototype rotating arrangement for a vermiculture system was designed, built, and tested to reveal its viability and whether it could provide adequate nutrients for a vertically arranged, artificially lit, hydroponic system. The prototype hydroponic system, using a combination of nutrient film techniques and flood and drain beds, was planted and growth rates and plant health indicators were tracked weekly to test the system’s viability. Finally, the energy portion of a life cycle analysis was generated to reveal the overall environmental impacts per head of lettuce as compared to the transportation impacts of store bought lettuce. In the end, the prototype vermicomposting system proved easier to use, produced less offensive odors, and had fewer pest intrusions than a commercially available stacked-bin system. The prototype hydroponic system also showed promise in being able to produce food, although further testing and design alterations are required before the system is capable of the desired production levels.
Johnson, Craig
Automotive traffic has negative effects on the health of urban areas (Friedman), and bicycling is seen as one approach as a healthy and obvious alternative to automotive traffic. (Client Earth, Norback) One solution to increasing bicycling in urban centers is safer, better planned bicycle routes (Lindsey, Use of Greenway Trails). To measure the effectiveness of these efforts or to measure flaws in the bicycling route system, feedback is needed (Lindsey, Use of Greenway). This feedback often comes from a traditional bike counter, which tallies a number of riders on a specific bicycle route. Typically these bike counters are costly, hard to move and have limitations in counting. (Blenski) The goal of this DIY Bike Counter thesis project is to develop a new bike counter at a much lower cost, which is mobile, and works within a 3 step system so better data can be obtained and observed. This data will be more behavioral, lowering barriers to organizations and cities that have limited budgets for alternative transportation projects. The results from this project show that a do-it-yourself counter can be developed at many times less cost than traditional commercial bike counters, by using an ultrasonic sensor and controller with adjustments to online open source code. This counter, due to its low cost and mobile ability, then may be placed to collect data in a gridded system. Once captured, the data can be flowed into visualizations, to show not only bike counts, but bike behaviors as well. This promises to be a big step in closing a gap between geo-location tracking and standard counters, by using a DIY Bike Counter to capture counts and behavior within a gridded system.
Kohn, Joel L.
This project addresses the sustainable design challenge of bacterial contamination of water through a product system that makes collecting data, sharing data, and retrieving data simple, fun, and potentially profitable. This product system grew from the author’s volunteer experience monitoring bacterial contamination of water. Water connects people, prosperity, and planet, all three major aspects of sustainability. There are variety of methods to monitor water/ecosystem quality and methods that test water chemistry, the author chose bacteria because of his familiarity with the method, the ease by which the method can be applied by the general public, and his access to sampling supplies through his volunteer work. The product idea was the author’s, and it grew through a systems mapping approach, helping to identify connections and delays in the system, and led to a product idea that won a development team in the Minneapolis College of Art and Design’s Global Design Challenge course. The WaterSlide team—Craig Johnson, Jessica Papa, and the author—applied the Lean Startup Method to discover a business model largely based on customer feedback through interviews. The initial product idea was hardware that could remotely monitor bacteria levels in a body of water. Results form this first phase of interviews, study of the Blank and Dorf text, and lessons learned from the Business Model Canvas led the WaterSlide team to pivot away from a hardware unit and toward a software and data product system to address the design challenge, largely due to invention risk. After pivoting, the team focused on a mobile application (app) to reduce or eliminate delays in the data reporting process. Through interviews and the Business Model Canvas, the team found that selling data to governmental/regulatory agencies was a possible source of revenue. After completing a total of 57 potential customer interviews, the team shifted into prototype creation, making a wireframe mockup of the product, a slide presentation, and a promotional video. The prototype started with a list of functions that the app should perform, from which flowed the initial mockup sketches. The team further refined these sketches and determined that the data reported should include site and plated sample photographs with metadata documenting site conditions and sample results. The team determined that WaterSlide would own the data and house a centralized database with free, public access to current information and with large blocks of data suitable for scientific or regulatory analysis available at a cost. Initially the costs of operating the WaterSlide model would be provided by outside sources: grants, investors, etc., until the database is large enough to generate income from data customers. Discovering a business model for a multi-sided market was challenging for the WaterSlide team. In particular it was difficult to gain interviews with large-scale data customers. Practically, it was also challenging to lead a group across several time zones while working and going to school full-time. The team sought grant funding to further develop the idea. While the team did not win that grant, the author recommends implementing the model to create a sustainable business. A sustainable human world is one in which humans and their economic systems have been reintegrated into the laws and workings of the planet on which they live. This project was an attempt to create a digital and eventual physical product system tied to water quality. Water underlies all three of those pillars of sustainability and is essential to life on earth. By creating a platform to observe and share water quality information, the WaterSlide system connects people to planet with generating profit as a goal.
Man, Wai-Jing
Education is identified as the main proponent for achieving sustainability on individual, community, national, and global scales. Education for Sustainability (EfS) (education that promotes sustainable thought and practice) has not yet gained momentum in Australia, despite Australia’s commitment to the United Nation’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and signing of the Talloires Declaration. Primary and secondary research was conducted to explore barriers to the implementation of EfS in Australian primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions, with a focus on Australian public higher education. Major barriers identified were lack of government funding and support; lack of teacher pre-service education; and lack of in-service education. This paper also explores barriers to sustainable behaviour change on an individual level; the main barriers being the effects of psychology on sustainable behaviour (in particular, Unconscious Thought Theory and Confirmation Bias were discussed), cultural irrelevance, and communication language. Results were compiled to inspire the preliminary design of a proposal for the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency, an Australian Federal Government regulatory body that oversees the higher education sector, to integrate EfS into public tertiary curricula. The proposal is guided by Doug McKenzie-Mohr’s Community-Based Social Marketing Framework and the Social Impact Framework developed by the Australian Centre for Social Impact. To improve the effectiveness and validity of the proposal, further research is needed in the areas of curriculum standards, institutional barriers, demographics, government policy and funding, and international initiatives.
Mohn, Kate
According to the United States Census Bureau, an estimated 50 million people live in rural areas of the United States—that is, nonmetropolitan areas with fewer than 50,000 people. All combined, rural Americans currently comprise 16% of the country’s population. Despite the idealized and romanticized versions of rural life often produced and consumed by American popular culture, the actual experience of rural living is widely divergent from the conventional cultural narratives. In the early twenty-first century, rural areas are deeply impacted by the issues of economic development, environmental degradation, and social equity but often lack many of the resources available to urban areas to address these concerns. The Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) has been working for the past three years to help build stronger and more sustainable rural communities through its Greater Minnesota Arts Initiative (GMAI). The core focus of the GMAI is to partner student artists and designers with local organizations in service to creative rural development. Design thinking is used to investigate issues, acquire information, analyze knowledge, and propose solutions for concerns identified by community members. This program allows students to explore the social application of creative practices and provide rural communities with new creative resources. The college’s approach to this project is derived from four core principles for creative community building: to respect the artists, designers, and community; to think both systemically and holistically; to focus on approaches that are sustainable; and to set realistic goals and engage in honest assessment. The GMAI has piloted several different approaches to explore the potential of using art and design as resources for creative community building. The program has resulted in two Design in the Community classes focused on rural issues being offered to undergraduate students at MCAD, the creation of a summer residency program for student fellows, the hosting of an exhibition featuring rural Minnesota artists at MCAD, and an intensive weekend workshop and subsequent community skillshare event coordinated in west central Minnesota. Through the process of designing and implementing the initiative, the college has learned valuable lessons about how to best teach community-based design programs and has used these lessons to shape the goals of the program moving forward. As a result, the key goals and approaches of the program have been defined as demonstrating public practice models for students; providing professional development for students; creating tangible assets for community use; demonstrating design-thinking potential to students and community members; and cultivating student interest in rural areas. This project demonstrates that art and design can serve as novel tools to help equip rural communities for the challenges of the future through the process of creative community building. Community-based design projects that focus on a creative approach to addressing civic and social challenges benefit participating communities through the creation of tangible creative assets. Additionally, these programs have the potential to create long-lasting positive effects for students and institutions of higher education, as well as the broader civic infrastructure of the state.
Muralidharan, Gautam
There are several challenges that small businesses face everyday when taking on the business world by themselves. Lack of resources, time and funds are but the beginning of the long road of tests and tribulations that a small business must pass through before attaining stable state. They risk getting outspent, out marketed, outthought by larger companies with potentially unlimited resources at their disposal. However, our communities and economies cannot sustain themselves without these small businesses. The small businesses that grow and flourish over time provide economic stability for owners and their families. The solution presented in this thesis proposes a network of small businesses (SOUP) that enables businesses to deliver their product or service leveraging the combined resources of other small businesses and in the process reusing information, finding new ways of working together and propelling their performance as a unified team of small businesses. SOUP was defined through multiple iterations of interviews with SMBs. Based on feedback provided by the interviewed SMBs, the design was updated to solve real issues faced by SMBs.. SOUP is designed using time-tested strategies used by nature and leverages principles of flow to set up an environment of optimal performance for small businesses. SOUP’s internal algorithm learns the preferences of members over time and helps these businesses build their own custom supply chains by recommending other small businesses to partner with. As members of this network establish trust-based relationships with other small businesses, and share knowledge and services, they create a more resilient business model together to survive in the market place against hostile forces.
Papa, Jessica
This thesis project identified patterns in consumer behavior that have the potential to influence and nurture sustainability as a key decision driver. By focusing on the low-hanging fruit of single use to-go items such as plastic cutlery, this study observed consumer behavior to test the effectiveness of the newly identified patterns. Pattern testing was designed to determine if price is the key-purchasing driver, or if in spite of the increase of low-income households that must place a heavier importance on price and convenience, sustainable consumer behavior could prevail. Through analysis of existing research and analogous studies, and the execution and examination of new research, these patterns were identified. Direct, simple, and convenient point-of-decision design solutions were selected as successful behavior modifiers during the testing phase, which allowed sustainable consumer behavior change to occur regardless of the user’s economic situation. While the results were specific to the testing conducted in this project, it is concluded that such pattern application and design solutions could have the potential to achieve similar results to nurture and alter sustainable consumer behavior.
Petersen, Wesley
The drive towards reductions in carbon emissions in the public policy sector and the push to create energy efficiency technologies and renewable power sources will lead to changes in the way things are done in the building sector. The increase of energy efficiency in buildings can lead to cost savings for developers and help to reduce global carbon emissions. Utilizing newly developed technologies and assessment tools for monitoring building systems is helping to guide decision-making in the management of making building improvements. These improvements have resulted in cost savings, but when the decisions are backed up with credible data, developers are able to measure and accurately show the benefits of making those improvements. These cost savings can allow non-profit building developers to more closely meet the goals of their mission and contribute to their long term success; the net result being an increase in affordable housing. This paper will describe the assessments of energy use gathered from buildings owned by Artspace, an affordable housing and art studio space developer and provider that started in St. Paul, and show how these results contribute to the achievement of their mission and success of the communities it serves. The following introduction discusses findings published by members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as well as some of the leading thinkers in the field of energy efficient building design. These findings can help developers plan for emerging standards and requirements in the future. Through the body of the paper are the standards used to develop a sustainability plan and the steps already undertaken by Artspace to reach the goals laid out in the plan. Additionally, five Artspace properties are profiled and the results of the study on these properties are explained. Following the background and project methodologies and findings, the paper presents a discussion of actionable steps going forward for that could save this organization money and help fulfill its mission. In conclusion, increasing energy efficiency is not only a logical step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also establishes a new vision of how we develop buildings and provide ways to meet affordable housing needs well into the future.