2011 Accomplishments

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Cardboard Creations

posted May 2, 2011, 6:20 PM by Daniel Vu   [ updated May 2, 2011, 7:24 PM by Jen Mankoff ]

Creating Sustainable Cardboard Solutions and Replacements for Common Household Goods.

Today people touch cardboard in some way shape or form on a daily basis. It’s used widely in shipping boxes, packaging material, and even as corrugated sheets. Most of theses applications require that the cardboard to be used a single time after which it is discarded. The use of cardboard has been growing extensively around the world. After having saturated the developed world it is slowing becoming vastly popular in developing countries that have a growing demand.

Our group's goal was to find ways in which cardboard, especially any that can be found lying around a typical household, could be better utilized since cardboard is rarely ever recycled to its complete potential.

The problem that we are addressing is to expose people to the various possibilities of utilizing waste cardboard in easy meaningful ways in their daily lives. We wanted to show people how we can recycle cardboard utilizing simple techniques that take minimal time and require few simple tools.

We wanted to target college students since as college students ourselves, we saw the need for products that were:
  • cheap
  • disposable/sanitary
  • recyclable
  • easily stored
  • easily assembled/disassembled for easy transport
This was because as college students who lived in one place for only a semester or two and many of us who were living on a budget, it was a priority to find some alternative to having to buy new things each time we moved. We also understood the necessity to find a better more sustainable way of living that did not involve throwing away materials that could be better put to use.

What we did was over the span of the project we had collected cardboard, researched possible designs by surveying people on what products they thought might be useful in their everyday life, studied DIY culture to find existing ideas and modify/improve upon them, and collected enough cardboard to create our objects.

The end result was 2 large furniture pieces -- a chair, and a coffee table/shelf unit, and 3 smaller designs -- laptop/tablet stand, cereal gift box, and a small trashcan.

Chair                                                                                                      Coffee Table

Laptop/tablet stand, gift boxes, trashcan

As part of our process, we wanted to share our designs and show our documented steps to constructing these pieces so that other people could then build them, themselves.

Laptop/Tablet designs

Gift box design

Todo: Step-by-step instructions for building coffee table and instructions for making chair

Coffee Table Guide
Tools: Ruler, box cutter, hot-glue gun with glue sticks, pencil or other marking tool

The coffee table uses 9 rectangles of cardboard that are 13"x22" for each of the rib inserts. 

The top and sides are made from a single piece of 48"x48" cardboard that is bent to form 2 sides that are 13"x48" and the top section that is 22"x48".


posted May 2, 2011, 6:10 PM by Emily So   [ updated May 2, 2011, 6:46 PM by Jen Mankoff ]


Chris Reid, Dan Lipson, Emily So, Freeson Wang

For our final project, we created a point-and-click adventure style video game based on children's educational games, satirizing the relationship between the ideals of environmentalism with how the corporate world seems to approach them. We built this off of Project 4, our Bump*Start game, which was meant to brainwash children into becoming environmental hazards. The final project, "The Adventures of Peter the Polar Bear," became  a game designed for adults as more of a narrative and commentary of what happens in the real world.

We first came up with an idea and storyline that we wanted to bring across to the audience. Then we storyboarded the parts the player would go through, the mechanics of the games, lists of assets and so on. The game was coded, and then assets that we created were integrated into the game, including voice-acting, sound effects and graphics.

As gameplay corresponding to the storyline, the minigames slowly progressed from being genuinely eco-friendly as a green scout, to unveiling the dark truth behind the green scouts. Though the narrative and events in the game are absurd, there is much truth behind the ideas, such as the irony between the large companies' desire for profit and their advertised "desire to be more eco-friendly." A specific example could be in the fabric shopping bags that are sold to replace plastic shopping bags. Though plastic is harmful to the environment when simply left out as trash after a few uses, the eco-tote bags take more resources to produce and many people buy them again and again. The only way to effectively be eco-friendly when dealing with these bags is to use the same one(s) for at least a year instead of ever using plastic bags or buying another tote bag.

There is much to explore in environmentalism (in this case, the irony between the ideals and how we deal with it), where education and awareness is crucial in order to approach it in the first place. Our approach was by making a video game which is one of the most effective ways of retaining people's attention in order for them to learn what we want to convey.

Project Object

posted May 2, 2011, 4:56 PM by Korry Magann   [ updated May 2, 2011, 5:16 PM by Jen Mankoff ]

The goal of Project Object is to teach young people about the importance of recycling and inspire professors, students, and visitors to take action.

Focusing on a tangible site, we worked to clean up the CMU campus by collecting discarded objects on a weekly basis.

Using found objects and recyclable materials, we then created a teaching tree to aid in educating students at the Children’s School about recycling and ways to keep the Earth clean.

Every weekend for five weeks, we scoured the campus collecting discarded objects. Finding discarded items of all shapes, sizes, and materials, we saved items that could be recycled or reused and properly disposed the others.


Once we finished collecting items, we then used them to aid us in building a sculptural teaching tool for the Children’s School.Following in the spirit of Earth Day, we decided to create a tree that could house pots of reused disposed bottles containing wheat grass planted by the students. Upon the completion of the display, each student will be able to take their plant home and replant it.

Using the teaching tree, our efforts to clean the campus, and our knowledge of recycling, we prepared a lesson for the kindergarten class at the Children’s School.

In order to teach them about how recycling and reusing can be fun , we collaborated with the students to create Plantimals from recycled bottles we had collected. Each student was able to make their own Plantimal and given a few days to watch as the wheat grass grew. We also let the students decorate the teaching tree in order to reinforce our partnership on the project.


The final phase of Project Object was to display our work for everyone to see with the hope of

Inspiring them to take action

Working with Green Practices, we were able to put our project on display in the Green Room.

We also invited the students who helped us to come see the display and put their Plantimals up.


Ensuring tomorrow through taking action today 
                                                                            - Project Object 

Plant a Seed, Do a Deed

posted May 2, 2011, 4:54 PM by Helen Lam   [ updated May 2, 2011, 8:36 PM by Jen Mankoff ]

The “eat local” movement has become increasingly popular in recent times and is very supportive of regional culture and economy.  It also has a legitimate environmental impact.  The most obvious positive effect of eating local in “green” terms is the miles saved by not having to transport (or refrigerate) food for extended periods of time.  These miles are regarded as the distance consumables must travel in order to reach the consumer.  These travels generate carcinogens, greenhouse gases, volatile organic compounds, and other harmful gases in the process.  “Food miles” also consume a significant amount of fossil fuel.  If food is grown and consumed locally however, we can reduce all of these negative side effects and reduce our ecological footprint significantly.

Locally grown consumables also have the additional advantage of not having to be packaged as completely as food distributed by large grocery manufacturers.  This packaging helps to preserve and protect the food during transportation, but since these items are transported a shorter distance when locally grown, much of this packaging is no longer necessary.  The crates used by local farmers are also generally reused and brought back which is in stark environmental contrast to the large manufacturers that use disposable items (re: pallets) which are cheaper to leave (and oftentimes dispose of) at their final destination than ship back.

The second facet of this project is the desire to connect students with a natural environment largely devoid in their daily lives. Carnegie Mellon University, like many universities and colleges, maintains a campus with an extensive lawn. While on the surface a lawn is “green” and composed of plant matter, lawns are analogous to industrial agriculture--a symbol of humanity’s desire to impose order and cleanliness upon nature. In fact, students who spend a majority of their time on campus do not have many opportunities to engage with “natural” processes. One of our major goals was to help re-frame the way students interacted with nature on a daily basis.

To achieve these goals, we experimented with the notion of a new campus garden that could facilitate such human-nature interaction.  We wanted to make sure it was positioned at a location that was prominent and visible to the majority of the student body, and it was for this reason that we chose “the Cut” at the center of campus. In particular, we chose to target the area closest to the Fence, a realm of campus generally accepted by students and administration alike to be student territory. We began by creating a mobile planting bed out of wood and rolled it into place.  Next we planted half of the garden bed ourselves but left tools and seed packets on the soil of the other half.  The goal was to see if we could engage the local student body to plant the other side of the bed as we had done already, using semantic and minor textual cues to invite interaction.

An installation such as a campus garden could help foster a closer student community by encouraging students to interact with the planting beds by asking them to “leave a plant or take a plant.”  Another method might be to create a more structured system of maintenance for the flora.  Indeed, planting beds are often not strictly governed by the university, but instead by the students. In this regard, it may be appropriate to observe other spontaneous community phenomenon on campus such as the Carnegie Mellon Fence.

Invasive Species

posted May 2, 2011, 5:59 AM by Steve Gurysh   [ updated May 2, 2011, 4:18 PM by Jen Mankoff ]

Anubhuti Jain| Andrew Gillespie| Steve Gursh

Our group set out to explore the discourse surrounding invasive species by designing a live action role playing game that served to educate users on the topic while allowing each player to develop a persona which embodied a particular invasive species that is currently impacting southwestern Pennsylvania.  Our game has been designed to be shared, played, and altered through networks of educators, activists, and gamers.  Aside from creating a rulebook, we designed a kit to disseminate the game, which include cards, such as the one pictured above which provide a brief narrative about each organism.   For our prototype, players can choose to inhabit 10 different invasives from the SW PA region, which include:  the emerald ash borer, European starling, stink bug, zebra mussel, purple loosestrife, kudzu, garlic mustard, tree of heaven, dutch elm disease, and chestnut blight.

The Game

Invasive Species is a role playing game involving 10-20 players divided into two teams.  Each player on either side is an invasive specie who is defined by the specie he or she gets casted as.  During the game, the important part for the player is to act his/her role out. For example if you are chestnut beetle, a mollusk you are tied down and limited in you activity and speed.  The goal of the game is to take control of the opposing territory by stealing their hanky.

Types of Lifeforms

Plants:     The plants’ powers lie in their ability to throw seed bombs. They are the stationary offense of the team who can destroy other team by tagging them with seed bombs. Also they can tag and kill the other team that invade their area in their turn. 

Insects/animals:     The are the offense of the team and the only one who can go into  the enemy territory to claim the winning flag. Also they can tag and kill the other team that invade their area in their turn.

Fungi:     They are the protectors of the flag.  The fungus must tag the other team that invade their area.

Once tagged the players go into jail and can be revived if a seed bomb is thrown towards them and they catch it.  If all the players in the team get tagged, the fungus/mollusk are allowed increased mobility. They have to guard their flag while also trying to grab the flag of the other side.

Set Up

1.       Create field boundaries defined by two equal areas

2.       Players divide into two equal teams

3.       From a deck of cards choose an invasive species to be your role in the game

4.       Players are to perform in character throughout the game and therefore should take the time to practice how              they should modify their behavior

5.       Two flags are set up on either end of the field


The goal of the game is to establish control of the field. That can be done by grabbing the flag of the team from the other side.

Waste Sorting System - Eunice Chung, Frankie Gaw, Michelle Guarino, Danielle Parnes

posted Apr 30, 2011, 9:38 AM by Frankie Gaw   [ updated Apr 30, 2011, 10:17 AM by Jen Mankoff ]

The waste disposal system at Carnegie Mellon’s dining locations lack post-consumer composting, easily understandable instructions, and a sense of standardization throughout the various locations. Our project aim was to arrive at a solution that would allow an easy implementation of collection bins for post-consumer compost, recycling, and trash and a new visual communication system to inform and educate students and faculty. We identified waste sorting and pre-consumer composting as a valuable and appropriate area to address because of CMU’s past efforts related to the environment, and more specifically the waste management systems they have put into place and lack. In order to gain a better understanding of how to address our established problem, we observed Phipp's Conservatory, the University Center, and the Café in Resnik to see how they deal with their waste.

At the University Center, the scattered placement of the waste bins impeded students in their willingness to recycle because of the extra effort it took to go from from one bin to the other. Also, the lack of cohesiveness between the trash can and recycling bin created a disjointed waste disposal system that was evident in students’ unwillingness to make an effort. 

At Phipps Conservatory, we found an existing system that was effective in organization, but lacked a visual hierarchy that was comprehensible to the viewers. Although differentiated by category, the overwhelmingly tall signage and large number of items inhibited the person from seeing their system. This resulted in many people to look into the trash, to see in real time what was physically being put into the trash to reinforce their decision making. However, some of the bins had the wrong items, creating even more misleading visuals.

Good categorization, but lacked hierarchy in terms of the visual language and too many items on large board became overwhelming

Many people looked inside the trashcans rather than the board, but each trashcan had wrong items in them, creating even more confusion

We created a prototype to test what we learned from our previous observations with our own signage and visuals at Resnik and we found that more specific interactions such as separating food from the container weren’t practiced if it wasn’t clearly communicated to them that food was compostable and the container was recyclable. Also, the broadness of what items could go into the compost bin seemed to be overwhelming in communication. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Our solution to a post-consumer composting system was to create a waste disposal receptacle supported by a visual system that both educated and guided students to organize their waste correctly. We wanted the design of the trash bins to encourage the user to place the most trash possible in composting and recycling and the least possible to go into the trash. Three main layers of hierarchy are communicated: physical trash, category label, category details; which allows user to quickly and easily take in information; minimal text helps to reduce comprehension time and confusion. 

. In order to address the the lack of standardization and extra effort for students to recycle, we organized the trash bins based on the order in which people throw away their trash, generally going from the food, to the container holding the food, to any other items that cannot be composted or recycled. Organizing the bins according to that process was a crucial part in creating a natural routine that’s straightforward and understandable to someone who may have never composted before. 

We put category labels in front of the trash bins, which utilize colored signage to visually differentiate the different types of trash. We placed the signage in front of the trash to allow viewers to visually see each category first as they approach the trash cans. Behind the bins, we designed clear windows to house the actual objects of its given category to serve as a straightforward visual guide. These windows would allow the dining establishments to insert items which are commonly used and replace them as items change.


We also created a separate bin for food scraps, in order to clearly bring to attention the distinct nature that category. This allowed for compostable items as a whole to be organized more clearly, and therefore, decreasing the chance for contamination. 

In conclusion, we have been able to work toward a more effective communication system, and found that mainly simplification and realistic representation are the most effective methods.   As a next step, we could further work with the Green Practices Committee to further refine out project to be presented to the university as a proposal.  To get to this state, we would need to do further research on the costs associated, and further refine the systems by which the trash would be placed into the correct dumpster.  We could also contact the universities we found that have post-consumer composting to get a better idea of how they implemented it, what works well, and what suggestions they could provide from their experiences. 

Fly..When Disaster Calls

posted Apr 7, 2011, 8:57 PM by Anubhuti Jain   [ updated Feb 22, 2012, 3:04 AM by Jen Mankoff ]

For our most eco-deconstructive we decided to focus on the economy revolving around disasters and their commercialization. Our service called Fly when disaster calls would provide people personal tours to disaster hit areas and help them get a first hand view on the calamity. While this would not only add unnecessarily to resource overuse as well as pollution caused in the process of visiting the area(flight, land transport and helicopter) and emit harmful gases and CO2 into the air globally as well as locally it will also hog on the existing resources of an already troubled area. In the attempt of our user to see the disaster hit area, they will be given special treatment for the view instead of helping the people suffering there. They will be have the resources on their disposal as a luxury while the people of the area suffer due to the calamity. 

To showcase our project we built up publicity mockups and scenarios to help communicate our point across the table and did resource consumption calculation too.

Big Barrel's Charred Trash

posted Apr 7, 2011, 5:11 PM by Korry Magann   [ updated Feb 22, 2012, 3:04 AM by Jen Mankoff ]

Group Members: Korry Magann, Gordon Johnston, Gina Smith

For our "D-Eco-Structive" service, we decided to create an alternative waste removal service, Big Barrel's Charred Trash. Rather than try to create a product or service that was completely implausible, we decided to try and craft something that even though was extremely harmful to the environment and to human health, could possibly be implemented. In many rural areas across America, burning trash is an acceptable action and in some cases even the preferred method of waste removal. However, as our research revealed, burning trash creates problems magnitudes greater than traditional landfill services.
A result of the recent waste removal dilemma in Millersburg PA, Big Barrel will provide the town with an affordable, locally owned and operated, full service waste removal solution. Each week our 27 1993 Volvo side loader trucks will pick up the townspeople's trash and transport it to our newly excavated 20 acre plot just outside of town. Once all the waste has been collected, it will be taken to our burn pit where it will then be lit on fire and left to burn until the flames go out on their own. Any leftover material that has not been successfully burned will be collected via inmates from the nearby Dauphin County Prison. Dedicated to safety, Big Barrel has emergency personnel as well as a Bell 212 helicopter to bring water from the local creek to put out the fire in the event that it gets out of control.

Not only is Big Barrel's Charred Trash eliminating the waste in Millersburg, we are creating new jobs in the community. An additional benefit is that there will be no unsightly landfill or the harmful effects from its use. We are also making use of the land nearby the recently closed landfill, as well as providing safer routes for the garbage trucks. 

If all goes well in Millersburg, Big Barrel's Charred Trash has the potential to expand on to other areas of Pennsylvania, providing an alternative waste removal service.

* The environmental impact of this service will result in an annual release of 2298.85 tons of CO2.

Bump*Start Preschool: Green Adventures!

posted Apr 3, 2011, 2:58 PM by Emily So   [ updated Feb 22, 2012, 3:03 AM by Jen Mankoff ]

members: Freeson Wang, Chris Reid, Emily So

For our project, we created a demo of a video game designed for the future generation -- namely, young children. The video game was designed to be misleading, telling children to recycle everything -- or put all objects (apple cores, pine cones and batteries) into the recycling bin. The style of this video game is inspired by educational games such as "Reader Rabbit," the "Jump Start" series and point-and-click adventures such as Putt-Putt and Freddi Fish.

We decided to target children because they are at the most impressionable stage in their lives. Environmentalism is an inherently long-term task. Significant damage to the environment has been as a result of, though unwittingly, the masses contributing to that end.  In order to eliminate the environmental problems we have caused, we have to make long term commitments and fix the problems over time. Education or awareness is an important first step towards taking eco-friendly action.

This video game is environmentally unfriendly because it teaches the future generation to become "conscious" environmental hazards. We chose to make a video game because the younger generation spends many hours a week (on average around 7 to 8) playing video games. Thus, it's probable that children would be highly influenced by such a video game.

click on link for demo:

The PrimeTruckers

posted Apr 2, 2011, 11:51 AM by D. Jason Wilkins   [ updated Feb 22, 2012, 3:01 AM by Jen Mankoff ]

For this assignment, we were tasked with creating the most environmentally unfriendly product or service we could think of. That led our group (Vishnu Anantha, Michelle Guarino, and Jason Wilkins) into a brainstorm session around how we could reach as many people as possible using an existing infrastructure.  We settled on creating a product distributed through Amazon.com, specifically Amazon's Prime service.  As Vishnu had done some work regarding the environmental footprint of vehicles in the past, we decided that would be a good option (specifically a truck). But how could we really amplify just how bad this PrimeTruck could be for the environment?

We decided that our gift truck would be a "thank you" to all of our loyal prime customers out there. We will off.er you this single passenger truck that can be used once with special fuel BP made specifically for our truck.  Additionally, this truck is an experience. It arrives on an even larger truck, the one and only:
Custom PrimeDeliverTruck that delivers the PrimeTrucks. So when it does finally arrive you will be SUPER PUMPED because of the build up. Your PrimeTruck arrives in style inside a paper-mulch box that has been printed with the maximum colors available at the pre-press (because we love you that much). And when you’re done using your PrimeTruck, our one and only custom PrimeDisposalTruck will come by and pick it up. So by the time the disposal truck finally arrives you will have had plenty of time to say goodbye!

The truck also features an amazing limited edition V12 Engine with 5mpg! The engine uses special high octane fuel with 2x the oil content and tetraethyl lead. It has even already been pre-filled and can travel 25mi! It’s one passenger seat so that you don’t have to share! The special packaging with metallic ink. Since it’s promotional we don’t have to follow Auto Market Rules (so we can do what we’d like!). We are only making 606 so sign-up and spend $10 today to ensure you get yours! 

We used Carnegie Mellon's Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Analysis tool to calculate just how large of a carbon footprint our PrimeTruck service would be. We considered light duty and heavy duty truck manufacturing (PrimeTruck and delivery trucks), packaging, truck usage emissions, Amazon HQ footprint, and disposal (see attached flow chart). Using the EIO-LCA tool and some simple math we were able to estimate that our CO2 emissions would be about 84219878 lbs of CO2, which is equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of a small American town (approx. 2000 people). We think we did a great job of creating a product and service that would have a negative environmental impact at every step of its lifecycle. 

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