Co-Plant is a sharing-economy food service distributed at local universities. Our goal is to promote plant-based diets and sustainable communities in hopes of reaching carbon net
zero by 2050.
UX research, UX/UI Design,
with Guan-bai Chen,
Chen Yu Chiu, Juwon Lee,
01 - Project Background
As the imminent danger of climate change continues to grow, the collaborative efforts of designers encompass various industries to usher in a new era of sustainable practices and environmental responsibility. While greenhouse gas emissions involve sectors like energy, industry, and transportation, an influential role has been identified in food waste and plant-oriented diets, according to the insights of Project Drawdown. As we explore more, we think about how this area can be directed to reduce carbon emissions and reach carbon net zero by 2050 and our HMW becomes the following:
How can we design for a solution that reduce carbon emissions in the food waste and plant-oriented sector and reach carbon net zero by 2050?
02 - The Outcome
Welcome to Co-Plant
Co-Plant is an organization to promote plant-based diets and sustainable communities. We provide services that allow students to cook and sell plant-based bento boxes in hopes of sharing new vegan and vegetarian recipes whilst earning revenue.
Come along and discover alternate plant-based and healthy meals directly on campus!
03 - Initial Research
Why Plant-Based Diets?
Plant-rich diets are a leading recommendation to reduce carbon emissions. (Project Drawdown) In the United States, around 8% of the population are
plant-rich dieters. This is compared to 22% of the world population.
Theoretically, if we were to reach carbon net zero by 2050 through this initiative, around 75% of the world population would need to adopt plant-rich diets. Breaking down it by decade, it would be 39% by 2030 and 56% by 2040.
How could we make create opportunities to encourage plant-based diets and meals while nudging this kind of behavior change?
Exploratory Research & Generative Research
Within four weeks, our team approached different methods of research. We started with a vegan diary study where we individually recorded our experiences, a workshop + interview to understand what people eat and their behaviors regarding food, and expert interviews with CMU staff to discuss the challenges corporations and organizations had providing meals. Then, we visited other institutions such as University of Pittsburgh to observe a case study and the differences between universities. We synthesized our work through storyboarding and affinity mapping. Our findings are summarized below:
Food is social and shared through community
Friends and peers were highly influential in diet choices. In some cases, taste wasn’t even a priority. It was about being together and sharing a meal. Often enough, this is how people were exposed to different types of food.
Individual pressure leads into pressure to create systemic change
At University at Pittsburgh, there was pressure on the institution to change. As a result, the UPitt had committed to adding more plant-based meals up to 42% by 2025. Because there was a demand, the institution had to provide for their students.
Students adapt to new environments - especially international ones
In our interviews, international students noted they often struggled with their diets because of the changes they were forced to adapt. Coming from environments where plant-based meals were common, they had to find alternatives to meals which resulted usually in cooking themselves.
We focused on these three key points and mapped each one to a solution to start ideating.
04 - Concept Development
A Community Space Sharing Food
As we focused on the pain points and found commonalities, we understood the importance of community and how food played a role. Gatherings with friends or other communities usually took place with food and were inviting that way.
There was also a demand for meals that were familiar, ones that were from your own hometown. Students would cook and bring their own meals because it was more enjoyable. We thought about these Bento Boxes that originated in Japan and were common in East Asia. They were the perfect amount of food for lunch and portioned out neatly.
So we began to think about how food could inspire others and if we could share our meals through a service, we could build a co-evolving community that promoted plant-based meals.
Welcome to Co-Plant!
Through observing other communities and our meal options, we wanted create a service that could benefit students and push for more plant-based diets. There we came up with Co-Plant, a collaborative community with an emphasis on plant-based meals.
Co-Plant helps students cook and sell plant-based boxes around campus. Students would first take certification courses to become student chefs and we would provide the ingredients for them to cook meals. They could then sell their meals on our app and other students, the buyer, could pick them up in heated vending machines across campus. This would be facilitated by the campus dining services. Our sytem diagram is listed below.
Student would be invited through the community and could join through our app to gain access to Co-Plant. They could either be a student buyer or eventually become a chef. They'd also gain access to the Coplant Lounge, where they could enjoy their meals within this community!
04 - Prototyping + Wireframes
Home + Browsing Bentos
PIcking up + Returning the Bento
Chef Profile + Your Profile
06 - Reflection
Designing for Long-term Growth
The difficult challenge we faced for this project was to design for long-term growth. The overall goal was to design a service that would lead to carbon net zero in 2050. From then on, we defined our own scope and had to think about how our service would continue over the years to reach the goal.
Our projects in the past usually have a short-term initiative or solves for solutions to imminent problems. With this project, I started to think and design for the long-lasting experience. It was not just for the current user but also for the concept's overall goal and how we could get there. It was challenging to design for a sustainable service with a goal to grow. We had to think about how this service be adaptable to other universities and communities and factor it in.
This was our last project of the semester and it felt rewarding to work on this project for a semester long. It rounded out our experience at CMU after experiencing various types of projects such as short-term sprints and long-term services.