My vision of minimizing food waste

Why not share our extra food instead of throwing them?

The UN estimates that one in nine people in the world stay hungry every day. More people die out of hunger than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined on a daily basis. Food waste is a global issue and it needs to be reviewed at a micro level. This project focuses on this issue and scrutinizes the different problems ultimately suggesting a solution that addresses them in order to minimize food waste.

Precedents

There has been previous attempts of combating food waste from a household perspective. For example, Food Trooper, it focuses on raising awareness on food waste through a game that can be played by kids and their parents. There has been multiple food waste awareness campaigns, such as the posters below.

While these existing solutions are great and making progress in the field of food waste, we still lack a solution that really makes it easy for people to contribute towards solving this issue and be a part of it.

To combat this issue, I experimented through a series of products, such as designing a trash can, which can help people compost their trash and turn it into a product that can be used to grow new vegetables.

I experimented with designing shopping bags which can help people limit how much food they buy. The bag below were designed to limit a person to buy food for a week and also remind them the different kinds of vegetables and food they should be eating.

None of the solutions seemed very appealing to people that I have tested with. Most of them mentioned that it did not seem natural for them to use the products and there was a learning curve to it. In order to create a solution that seems more natural and organic, it was important to take a step back and learn about the organic sharing that happens almost everyday in different communities. To get inspired I looked at how other domains were working similar issue such as Airbnb, LetGo, Craig’s List and so on. Even though all these platforms have different domains, their underlying concept is same — that is instead of wasting something, it should be shared and used. All those sites collectively promote good behavior, subtly encouraging reuse and sharing all the while strengthening societal ties. The focus of this project is similar and tries to answer the question, “How can we reduce household food waste and make sure to utilize the food resources without throwing it into the trash?” Inspired by these platforms, Minimash website was created to help people share their extra food and help each other out. Below is a walk through the product journey.

Information Architecture

Visualization of how the product will work

Wireframes

Prototype 1

Initial Prototype

After performing user testing on the mockups, it came to attention that they were highly functional but they were missing a wedge case that would be required for people to use it. They did not convey the message of why sharing food is important. It was crucial to educate people on the importance of saving food resources. It was also important to naturalize the use of the platform to make it feel more organic to the users. Digitizing the organic way of sharing food was then next step.

A digital platform to make it easier for people to share and seek food in their neighborhoods and proximity to reduce food waste and create a healthier living community. In this website, food needs to be registered by a user by providing the platform with their basic credentials such as email address, physical address, name and so on in order for the platform to keep track of the transactions happening on the website. People cannot share or seek on the platform without being a registered user, which helps with security issues and also user behavior research purposes. The website also makes it easier for users to seek food by helping them narrow down their options through filters such as neighborhoods and kind of food they are looking for.

The information architecture of the website is task oriented and functional. It is meant for users to come and perform a task and leave the website. The user interface is kept neat and clean in order for them to navigate through the website without any difficulty and confusion. Sign in and Sign Up are very straight forward and made sure to ask questions which are important but at the same time not intrusive the user.

Targeted Users

The targeted users for this product are people from the age group 20 years to 35 years old. A recent study states that people from that age group are more likely to use social media and are tech savvy. A lot of people belonging to that age group in New York can fall into the category of people who are new to New York and are looking into socializing. New York has many fine schools along with a lot of good accelerator programs for initial level startups which attract young talents from all over the country to come here. Since they are new here, they are more likely to look into communicating and socializing and this platform gives them an opportunity to do so. After performing user research on a college student, another wedge was mentioned that fresh vegetables in New York cost more than unhealthy junk food, and this platform can allow college students get healthier food within their existing budget.

Demo

Final demo of the product

Tech Stack

The website’s front-end is built on pure HTML5, CSS and Javascript, giving it a clean and sleek look. The backend is done on a local server using MySQL and can be pushed to Amazon AWS. The sessions are controlled through PHP, to make sure users cannot share or seek food without being logged on the website.

In the future

  • Due to time constraints it was not a very complex project to develop. The system has a lot of potential then just seek and share.
  • Incorporate farmer’s market and local stores to create a system where food are not being wasted.
  • The system needs more usability tests to understand what different ways it can incentivize people to seek and share.
  • Allow user to create trustworthy or preferable groups/ communities of people they want to share and seek from.
  • Creating personalized notification system to inform users if anything on their bucket list is up for sharing.
  • There is a great opportunity in this domain and we can create a culture of sharing by incentivizing people through positive feedback or star points.

Limitations

  • The project will only be successful if people not only share food but also communicate with each other.
  • For this product to work, it is important to reach out to the targeted users and incentivize them to use the product.

Follow me on Twitter or shoot me an email (nisanoshin@gmail.com).
Always looking for feedback and cool projects to work on.

Project’s Github Link