Indhira Rojas is a student from the California College of the Arts. Indexer is an idea for better ways of tracking our consumption. Indhira Rojas told us about her thesis project Indexer, a database for tracking consumption and managing waste. She wants to help people answer 2 questions: How much do I throw away? And, how do I recycle properly?
Hi I’m Indy, I’m a student from the California College of the Arts and I’m here to share with you a little bit of my thesis project. It’s called Indexer and it’s an idea for better ways of tracking our consumption.
So my thesis was all about wastes management and recycling, and I researched and talking to experts and going to the recycling committee and also talk to people from waste management and ecology and focused on waste disposal. It had a macro view but it also had a micro view. I talked to individuals about their recycling experiences and I’m here to talk about that phase.
So it was to engage in recycling and being more environmentally aware and to answer two questions; how much do I throw away and how do I know how to recycle properly?
So usually those questions are answered by giving us a measurement which is a weight value and the EPA has estimated that the average person throws away 6.62 pounds per day and it recycles 1.52 between recycling and composting.
Also when we are being taught you know, what are the best recycling practice, and the City of San Francisco gave us guidelines through information, enquires and in their website. But this got me thinking is this enough. Is this a measurement of how much I trash away and the information that the city gives you enough information for us to understand how much we throw away and what’s our footprint.
So I started thinking about this question and I started to track my waste, and through that experience a couple of patterns came through. Even although I identified that I lie within the average, what was more curious to me was what I saw that I consumed and what patterns arose and the fact that I drink you know 15 apple juice a month. And these were the questions that for me was interesting.
I found out knowing that how much your average waste sometimes can be misleading, and I heard this story about this college campus saved so much money just because they emptied their bottles. So basically they have the same amount of materials but because of the way of this story of what they understood their environmental input to be.
So then I wanted to reach out. I wanted to see what other people’s experiences were and I started talking to people in my immediate community.
So this is an intervention that I did at California college of the Arts, showcasing the ways of only one weekend, and with that process I started asking people questions; how did they feel when they recycle, how much do they consume.
I also did an intervention which was an installation that allowed people to sort of see that are thinking a process when we have to decide where to put what. it was a way of allowing people to experiment this process in a special way instead of just looking at a regular list which is you know our most common experience.
I also did a studio prototype with around 60 students, having them sort differently and seeing if they were able to identify materials. And I also did this for the type of people in the home with seven households; two couples and two households with roommates. And I asked them questions about what was their experience like and they had to journal. Every week I would go to their house and take pictures of everything that they consumed and also track you know what was the errors that they were trying to sort.
I also followed them in the supermarket and I was curious whether their environmental concerns were reflective of the things that they purchased. And what arose is this extreme stent of confusion. We had guidelines for people that don’t know what to do with the … And this is another example of things that could this even go in a bin and if it doesn’t where do I take it.
And with these insights is it our research told about ourselves. When you look at this picture you can tell that this person consumes a lot of coke and a lot of water, and possibly drinks soda more in cans than in others.
And it also talks about you know, our environmental concern being reflective in what we buy and what does that mean.
So the idea of the Indexer was to do something very low-technology, which our barcode and being leveraged and containing all this information. You can connect it to a link, you can connect it to any other type of data, and how can we do that to leverage what we buy.
So imagine when you went to a supermarket, instead of getting an envelope printed out receipt, you will get a receipt to your computer with everything that you bought. So for example the guy who was standing here before, he doesn’t have to manually insert every single item.
And it will tell you what are the materials that you’re buying so you can learn to identify them and it will show you, what are the frequency of the stuff that you buy and how does that reflect you know, how much glass you use, how much plastic you use, and how does that influence the recycling market? Are you contributing to glass recycling or more to plastic recycling?
And it will show you what to do when you actually need to dispose that item; how do I brake it apart to make sure that I’m sorting properly so it can be use by recyclers. And it doesn’t matter if you are at home or on the go, you always have access to this information.
I think the overall message is that if we want to leverage large scale behavioral change it is thought that we should have knowledge, we should have tools and we should have our policy. And I think using the tools that we have and the data that exists, supermarkets have all this information and they use it for marketing purposes.
And today there are many teams working with life cycle analysis and sort of giving us indexes for products like the Good Guide, and how can we combined this and motivate and experience in an open source so we can understand better about ourselves through what we buy and use that as information that makes it actionable if I actually want to switch a product because I don’t want to consume plastic, what are those products, and with what other products can I replace that. And I think those are the type of tools that will enable people to change their behaviour. We are expecting them to remember in their heads you know 30,000 products, and at the moment of throwing it away and knowing where to put it. it’s all that information that we are giving the individual a burden with. So I think we have the technology to improve that.