Discovering / understanding / designing sustainable lifestyles
A project investigating sustainable lifestyles, carried out under the Sparkling Science program, supported by the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy.
CONTENTS OF “HOW SHOULD WE LIVE?”
The “How should we live?” project deals with the question of how we can create our lifestyles in a way can that is environmentally and socially sustainable and future-friendly. “How should we live?” is a multi-level research process including scientific and creative practices.
During the participatory research phase, the young researchers observed and analysed their everyday lives using journals that were specially created for the project. This unveiled the students’ modes of transportation, their eating habits, and their preferred ways of spending their leisure time. The data was then analysed and evaluated for its environmental impacts. The intention was to analyse the hot-spots in the students’ lifestyles. Furthermore, the young researchers examined existing products, product-service-offerings and initiatives that help to improve lifestyles with regard to sustainability.
In the second part of the project, the co-design process, the students worked on enhancing an aspect of their daily lives. Using a co-design process, the school became a laboratory for alternative and innovative ways of being and doing.
OBJECTIVES OF “HOW SHOULD WE LIVE?”
One of the main aims of the project was to increase the acceptance for societal change towards ecologically and socially sustainable ways of living. The level of cooperation between the IDRV and the three Viennese schools ranges from the observation and analysis of the students’ living environments and the scrutiny of normality, to designing lifestyles and products with a low carbon footprint.
STATUS OF RESEARCH
Combining participatory research with co-design showed an effective method for the development of sustainable lifestyles. At the end of the research process, relevant sustainability topics were worked out in a bottom-up manner. It was essential for the project that the students could choose a topic that they can personally relate to – a topic that they are motivated to work on.
Research Questions for the participatory research phase:
RQ1: What does a representative school for a typical adolescent in Vienna look like?
This information was collected and conveyed effectively through the evaluation of the diaries. The tool “ein guter Tag hat 100 Punkte” (“A better day the 100 way”) was used during the analysis, as it illustrates the ecological footprint in a way that is easily understandable by the students.
RQ2) Which aspects of the school day have the largest environmental impacts?
The analysis revealed that the biggest lever for students to live more sustainably is their diet – particularly the reduction of meat and dairy products.
RQ3) Which sustainable products and services already exist?
The students investigated existing products, services, and initiatives clustered in the areas of mobility, food, consumption, and waste. By integrating alternatives into the mappings of a typical school day, the students were able to decrease their carbon emissions by 25% without much effort.
Research Questions for the Co-Design phase:
RQ4) Which aspects of a life that requires fewer resources can be designed together?
Each class was paired with a designer to form a design team. Together they went through the three phases of the design process focusing on self-generated topics from their everyday lives:
“How can we design a compelling alternative to the large number of sodas sold in PET bottles in schools?”
“How can we transform movement into energy in our leisure time?”
“What would an affordable, tasty, and ecological meal in daily school life look like?”
This resulted in three presentable projects:
One result was the student-created school drink “Ahoj” (the main ingredient of which is tap water) and a branded beverage dispenser, all designed by the team itself.
One co-design team developed a longboard by the name of “enERGy”. Little motors attached to the wheels transform kinetic energy into electricity, charging a battery pack that can be hooked up to any smartphone or USB device.
The students created a concept for context and branding for the cooking module “Wie essen?” (“How to eat?”) in schools, making it possible for students to learn about ecological nourishment in a theoretical and practical manner. A monthly cooking session for other students is part of the concept.
The co-design process enabled the students to apply creative process elements and test them for suitability, further developing the co-design methodology. The provided tools and methods for the co-design process functioned to different degrees of success. An accompanying tool kit, integrated for the implementation of participatory design processes, does not yet exist. At the same time, the students felt the sense of empowerment that comes with designing other aspects of their everyday lives.
DURATION: September 2014 – July 2016
Project lead: IDRV – Institute of Design Research Vienna
AHS Rahlgasse, Bundesgymnasium und Bundesrealgymnasium, 1060 Vienna
Evangelisches Gymnasium Donaustadt – Schwerpunkt Ökologie und Umwelt, 1220 Vienna