This is my bachelor degree thesis. I wanted to explore possibilities of how to help reducing the food waste in our homes. I wanted to design a solution that makes us more aware of the amount of food that we are wasting but also helps us reduce our waste. The project is in collaboration with Electrolux.
Approximatively 1,2 billion tons of food is being thrown away or spoiled annually in Sweden. 770 000 tons of the waste comes from the households. This contributes to a lot of negative consequences for the environment such as CO2 commissions, over fertilization and it generally drains our resources. The hardest part of the problem is that we don’t realise that we are wasting so much food.
Umeå Institute of Design in collaboration with Electrolux
This is what food waste is about
28% of the world’s agricultural area is used to produce food that is lost during production or wasted.
42% of the food waste in Europe comes from the households.
1,2 tons of food is being thrown away or spoiled annually in Sweden.
This is the Smart food storage. It is a concept that helps you remember your food and to store it correct for the best optimized experience. The fridge sets the temperature automatic depending of what type of food you have inside. By connecting the fridge to your phone you can get tips on recipes, see what groceries you have at home and easily be able to control the temperature and frosting in the doors. This adds the versatility of a smart product connected to the internet of things.
Step one: (at the grocery store)
Connect the application to your purchases via your pay card. Now you get all your purchases directly in your phone. Before grocery shopping use the app to see what’s missing and make a shopping list. When you pay, the fridge will see which groceries you have bought.
Step two: (at home)
When you get home, press the unpack button and the fridge will show you witch compartment to put your food in. The fridge optimizes the temperature automatically but if you still want to change it just connect via the application or do it manually in the fridge. Here you can change temperature from -22°C to +15°C. You can also decide how the frosting of the glass in the doors from here.
Know where to place the food
The fridge connects to your credit card and get information of your purchases. When you have been grocery shopping the fridge will show you with a small icon on each door in which compartments to put the groceries. It will adjust the temperature automatic for the optimal temperature. If something are about to go bad it will show with an orange icon. The fridge has the capacity to go from -22°C to +15°C.
Smart food storage is a modular system where you can chose the set up and type of storage after your needs. There are four different modules. One vertical and one horizontal wall mounted module. One with drawers and one with bigger compartments that are good for high bottles or groceries. All modules has the same dimensions and can be arranges as best suited. Depending on living space and need you can have one or two or more cupboards to fulfil your need.
Research & Insights
Why do we waste food?
Interview at the food lab
I contacted and held an Interview with Klara Båth that works at SP food and Bioscience and also visited the food lab at Electrolux in Stockholm. What I found out was that the biggest factors that has the biggest impacts on the shelf life of groceries is the temperature, 4 degrees, how we store our food and to have a good hygiene.
To get a better view on the target group, a survey was sent out. It was sent to 50 % single households and 50 % families with children. The survey contained questions about shopping habits and eating habits. The survey shows that 68 % buys big packs or campaign special offers.
Peoples everyday food journey
I made flowcharts for both the food and the users way from the store by the fridge, plate and to the bin . This was a way to map out the problem areas and to see where a solution can do the best positive impact. From these flow chart I saw that one problem area is that we can’t remember what groceries we have at home when we are at the store and that we are wasteful in the handling of the food when cleaning up.
8 of 10 thinks that food waste is a social problem.
9 of 10 thinks it is not a personal problem.
Food waste is a big debate in Sweden right now. We see on the news that it is a big problem for the society and environment. This is why 8 of 10 thinks that food waste is a big problem in the society. But we don’t see and know how much we throw away ourself. We don’t make the connection between our own behaviour and the problem in society. This is why 9 of 10 don’t think it is a personal problem. To reduce the food waste is a complex task. The problem is that we don’t realise that we waste food. We have to change our behaviour throughout the whole food chain to reduce the waste to zero. We can’t see how we gain anything from stop wasting food and that’s why it often slips our mind. What we need is a service or product that informs, increases awareness and helps us remember to eat what we have at home and make it easier to plan our meals.
There are different approaches to how we can reduce food waste when it comes to the storing of food. We can either make the food last longer and therefore we have more time to eat it. Or we can keep track on the food we have so that we don’t buy to much or forget what kind of food we have at home. When it come to keep food last longer it all depends on the temperature, to store it right and to have a good hygiene. To lower the temperature and have the optimal temperature for the specific type of food can make it last twice as long.
Families with children
Single person household
According to statistics families with children and single person households are the two groups that waste the most food. I chose to work with these two groups as my target groups. I developed a scenario each for the Andersson family and Klara that described their everyday life and pinpointed the problem areas in the flow. From this I could clearly see and compare the two different scenarios to find the problems they have in common and key moments where I can do an impact with my solution. (I have listed them in the insights below.)
Planning: Planing the shopping and cooking is a big problem. We don’t have time and don’t realise it is a problem that we spoil food. There is not a big personal need for planing better but there are a need in the task of reduce food waste to plan better.
Knowledge: The knowledge on and around food waste is one of the biggest problems. We don’t realise that we spoil food and we don’t understand why it is bad and how it effects our environment.
Storing: The storing of food is connected to the planning of food. We forget what we have at home and what we should buy witch leads to that we buy to much food that we don’t have time to eat. Another problem is that we don’t have the knowledge on how to store the food correctly witch leads to that the food lasts for a shorter period of time.
Flow chart analyse: The process of the food can be divided in three parts, shopping, storing and cooking. The storage of the food can then be divided in three parts and future focus areas: make food last longer, keep track on the food and plan the meal/shopping.
How might we connect the human with the food and with the storing of the food?
I held a workshop to get the ideation started. The goal was to start a discussion and get some new ideas and inspiration for further ideation. After finishing the ideation phase I evaluated all ideas based on criteria like new thinking, effectiveness, realism, simplicity and develop potential. There where ideas about how to track your food with different coloured fridge, cameras and sensors and smart food boxes.
The sketch phase was focused in two directions. One with a standing food storage solution and one with a storage solution on the wall. After evaluating this with users the solution on the wall was chosen. This will make the food more visible and accessible, it is better ergonomic. Here are some examples of the chosen direction.
Full scale simulation
The different compartments has to fit different types of food. To test the size of the compartments was a full scale projection made and tested with food of different hight and dimensions. The cupboard will have seven compartments. This allows for all temperature zones that is needed and also to be a bit more flexible in the temperature handling in the food storage.
To get a feeling of the size of the food storage a full scale mock-up was build. Here was different sizes of the radius on the corners tested. Also the depth of the cupboard was tested to get the right dimensions. The volume is ca 140 litres, this will allow a one person household to store food for a week and a family of four can store the most fresh food or there everyday groceries. By making the cupboard this small it is possible to be more flexible in the placing. The homes today gets smaller and smaller when more and more people are moving into the cities.
The model in the making. It's in 1:2 scale and made of PU-foam, mdf and acrylic in the doors.
The initial aim of this project was to help reduce food waste is the society. My solution helps to do this by optimizing the temperature, keep track on and visualize the food in a appetizing way. All this will hopefully increase the awareness and motivate us and inspire for further actions to reduce our food waste.
I learned that to set a goal of how solve the problem of reducing food waste was a bit ambitious. It's a really complex problem and involves humans actions and behaviour. I realized that to change human behaviour where there are no obvious gains to it is hard and not something you do in 10 weeks. Therefore I believe it would have been better to have a smaller focus in the project, but still on the same subject.