"At its core, a circular economy means that products no longer have a
life cycle with a beginning, middle, and end, and therefore contributes
less waste and can actually add value to their ecosystem." -Circular Design Guide
The idea that is mentioned above, in a way suggests that, if we can allow a product to stay with the user(s), then we can reduce the overall waste and energy consumption. Redesigning a product that can be utilized by thousands of homeless people and refugees,such that it serves their purpose along with creating a circular economy around the product.
This idea started as a concept for a design of a new mattresses made from Nike Grind with additional capabilities of refurbishing their existing bedding. Based on some of the feedback from the OpenIDEO community and more research into the needs of the homeless or refugees, the idea has now evolved into an individual space blanket that doubles as a sleeping pad/bag.
Staying warm is the one of the hardest challenges that most people on the street face on a daily basis in almost every part of the world. They do anything and everything to keep themselves warm in the harsh conditions; anything from using crumpled newspaper under their clothes, to worn and torn coats or blankets or use an emergency Mylar blanket. We can help reduce this problem by designing a product that can help them stay warm during the day with easy to wear, warm blankets, coats and insulated sleeping pad/mattresses that holds the body heat while they sleep in some corner of the street or in a refugee camp.
This product is a small step towards helping the homeless and refugees to stay warm. The Fluffy Blanket, is a blanket made out of recycled Nike Grind material that can be easily folded into an insulated sleeping pad. Like regular comforters, this blanket has partitions made in a specific locations that will allow people to easily wrap it around themselves, even when they are sitting. Fluffy Blanket will allow them to cover not just their lower body and torso, but also their neck and face. If you take any of your blanket and try to wrap yourself in it, with some movement, it generally starts to slip. To adapt to that issue, Fluffy Blanket has arm sleeves built in on both sides. It is easy to slide your arms in the sleeves and has quick Velcro opening at the other end, in case you need your hands for anything.
The arm sleeves and wings below it, were inspired by bio-mimicking bats. It can be easily worn if you are standing or sitting without creating gaps for wind to penetrate.
When you need to take a nap or sleep on a cold sidewalk, you can fold your Fluffy Blanket into a soft sleeping pad or bag. The arm sleeves fold from both sides into the middle third and triples up in softness and comfort as a single person pad. You can also slide your arms in the sleeves, and try to wrap the two side thirds over you and create a cozy pocket for warmth.
How is this going to help in circular economy? What is the sustainability perspective?
This product keeps circular design at its core, to allow for not having to replace it frequently and reuse as much as possible. The material used in this product are all recycled and put together in a way that makes it easy to refurbish the blanket. In case the Fluff or Foam gets flattened, it is easy to replace what's inside with new fresh, softer material. The flattened material can be pulled out and run through some hot air pressure (dryer), can be easily Fluffed up again! It provides a sustainable economy for the organization that manufactures as (unfortunately) there is always going to be a need for such blankets.
Additionally, in the productions process, we can create training documents/videos/GIFs for educating the users (homeless and refugees) to produce or refurbish the blanket. These training and skill development interfaces can then be easily provided to every Non-Profit or NGO that order this blanket. This will enable people everywhere to either duplicate the production process or refurbish the used blankets.
How does this help Nike in doubling the business and reducing the impact on the environment?
The Fluffy Blanket is made mostly out of up-cycled shoe Grind, so it requires very low amount of energy consumption to be produced. The impact on the environment due to waste going to landfills or into the oceans, reduces and we do not need too many resources to manufacture the product. The product can also be sold to general public and the profits from that used to distribute the same to the people in need. (We can partner with the organization https://choose.love/ or http://www.empowermentplan.org/ )
How does this improve people's lives and reduce waste?
It is easy to imagine the improvement that we create in each individual's lives by reducing waste and energy consumption overall. More importantly, these products will be most beneficial for people living on the streets or at refugee camps. The raw material would be easy to transport and assemble in any location and can be easily transferred around from one camp to another. We would reduce the amount of shoes thrown away and bring them to use for a good cause. If we sell the same product to general public, conveying that their purchase will help keep another friend on the streets, warm, that would make people feel helpful.
Immersing myself: Interviews
Conducting interviews in the Ideation Phase to get immersed in people's daily lives inspired me to think outside of my constrained mind. The interviews helped understand the needs of all kinds of demographics. I met with 5 people from varied backgrounds:
- 28, Female, Sales Rep, Masters Global Policy
- 25, Male, Chef, Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering
- 34, Female, Sensor Engineer, PhD Aerospace
- 35, Male, Unemployed, High school
- 40, Female, High School Teacher, Mathematics major
The first set of interview were done to get a general idea about how they perceive products made from recycled material. The questions were aimed to understand if using the Nike Grind material in daily products would be useful. Idea of products were suggested based on as audio or thermal insulation, non-slippery surfaces, items with floating properties, absorption properties and softness.
The overall feedback from these interviews suggested that a product that will come in use most frequently by people should be designed, so that we can use maximum amount of the recycled material. Another learning point was regarding finding more ways that we can help reduce the waste in the environment. My initial two concepts (Make your own bedding and Nike Grind Sieve) were trying to use the two main points, that came out of the interviews conducted.
After drafting the two concepts and getting feedback from other contributors and design thinkers, I decided to do a few more interviews to get a more focus approach into my concepts. I specifically met with two homeless people and an organization in Ann Arbor that supports intake of refugees. This time the question were about understanding and learning from their needs on a daily basis. Other that the need for food and shelter, what are the most important challenges that they face. In the cold weather of Michigan, staying warm in these conditions was the primary challenge. After more reading and research, I concluded that staying warm is a concern that homeless people have all around the world.
Based on the new interviews, research and feedback about focused product design, I decided on changing my idea from a mattress to a Fluffy Blanket. This will cover the need of the people on the street to stay warm and also my initial idea of mattress in the form of a sleeping pad/bag.