Design TEDTalks

Can you design a phone that’ll be used longer? A refrigerator that discourages food waste? Play the sustainability card game

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May
At TED2013, Leyla Acaroglu pondered the question: Paper or plastic? Below, play her sustainability card game. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

At TED2013, Leyla Acaroglu pondered the question: Paper or plastic? Below, play her sustainability card game. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Leyla Acaroglu aims to make people think about how the choices they make on a daily basis affect the environment. And she aims to make thinking about this fun. In today’s TED Talk, Acaroglu turns her attention to four bits of “environmental folklore,” like the idea that it’s more environmentally sound to opt for the paper bag over the plastic one. Leyla Acaroglu: Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folkloreLeyla Acaroglu: Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folkloreBy engaging people’s sense of play, Acaroglu and her team at the design consultancy Eco Innovators aim to get individuals and companies looking at the full life cycle of the products in order to make the kind of savvy decisions that can actually effect change.

This week, Eco Innovators held an “E-Waste Autopsy” at the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia, where passerbys dissected keyboards and computer mice to see what’s inside and think about how the parts could be better designed for recycling. The shop has also created a Mythbusting Sustainability App and, in the spirit of Captain Planetanimated “The Secret Life of Things.” One of Eco Innovators’ latest projects: a card game. These Design Play Cards were created to help people think about how to approach sustainability from a systems-thinking view. The game features three types of cards: purple “design problems” cards, which highlight products that lead to strain on planet Earth; turquoise “design strategy” cards, which offer approaches to rethinking them; and green “design inspiration” cards, which offer solutions that others have tried with great results to further open up brainstorming.

Want to play? Below, Acaroglu has handpicked five sets of cards to get you thinking. Take some time with each purple problem card below and brainstorm: Can you think of a way to tackle the problem, given the strategy and inspiration cards paired with it?

Challenge 1: How can you encourage cell phone users to keep their phones for longer than 15 months before getting a new one? What kind of system could make discarding phones less of a strain?

Challenge 1: How can you encourage cell phone users to keep their phones for longer than the usual 15 months before getting a new one?

Challenge 2: What kind of design tweaks could similarly give our laptops a longer life?

Challenge 2: What kind of design tweaks could give our laptops a longer lifespan?

Challenge 3: Is there a tea kettle tweak that will lead users to only boil what they need?

Challenge 3: Is there a tea kettle tweak that will lead users to only boil the amount of water that they need?

Challenge 4: Could the design of a refrigerator ?

Challenge 4: Could the design of a refrigerator influence users to throw out less food?

Design Play Cards

Challenge 5: Could we cut down on office waste by making chairs less breakable?

All cards here are provided courtesy of Leyla Acaroglu, with graphics by Daniel Kerris. Get the full deck »