Goin’green: Cradle to grave, grave to cradle
Service Design, User Research
2016 - 4 months full time
Will our bodies become a burden or a gift for the planet? Can we consider human body as a resource/product/package?, Which parts of our bodies are recyclable/reusable?, How far would we go for sustainability? Would we use products that are made of human remains? How can we reduce our carbon footprint at the very end of our lives? Can thinking our bodies as part of material cycle affect the way we live? Will we feel better connected to nature or seperated from it?
With this project I investigated the role for design to transform the way we perceive our bodies and encourage people to consider environmentally friendly body decomposition options. I designed a service that aims to invite people to reconsider their place in the material cycles of the nature and to inform them on alternative methods of end-of-life choices. Through digital mediums, I aimed to communicate the idea and information, and also provide a platform where users can feel connected to others. And through physical mediums, I aimed to achieve a prolonged engagement and emotional attachment to the ideas and methods that the project is sharing.
80% of workshop and testing session participants stated, Goin’green reduced their anxiety around death and dying. All participants said the website encouraged them to learn more about eco-friendly end-of-life options.
“The graphics are beautiful and the message is so important. It makes it much easier to think about a difficult decision when the information is presented so beautifully and makes me feel at one with others and the earth”, Testing session participant
“Your website and the visuals and interactive experience you’ve created allow for an immersion into the content that doesn’t otherwise occur (and I can say this based on working with the topic of body disposition for 5 years). Even though I know the content and the concepts inside and out, it wasn’t until seeing your website and engaging in the interactive element of it that I was able to embody the thoughts of what I want done with my body after I die and what that means for re-entering the cycle of life.”, Jamie Whittaker, End-of-life Planner at Crows in a Row
“I have anxieties about death. Thinking about death through DIY object made me feel more relaxed - it was very therapeutic”, Workshop participant
This project has been featured and shortlisted on OpenIDEO End-of-life Challenge (2016) and presented and exhibited at Dying Dialogues as part of Design Week in Canada, Toronto in 2020.
In order to meet project objectives, Goin’green follows a double diamond methodology. The discover phase involves an in depth analysis on: existing disposal methods, the role of the funeral industry in the status quo, novel and conceptually challenging disposal methods, perceptions around death, and communication strategies involving death. This phase uses methods such as interviews, user journey maps, contact with stakeholders, social media engagement and an online survey. The define phase harmonises all the critical insights and observations into key themes and narrows down the focus through a persona and defines a brief. The develop phase first responds to the brief with potential ideas which are then refined. First iterations of the design outcomes are developed and prototyped at a workshop and a feedback session. The deliver phase finalises the design outcomes taking the final feedback into consideration.
As design outcomes, the project delivers a service that comprises: an online presence with a web space to promote the “body as a resource” idea, to share information on alternative end-of-life processes, and to connect those involved with a physical object, delivered through this online space, to act as a reminder of mortality -- a memento mori – to facilitate behaviour change.
The feedback I received both through informal contacts, and more structured sessions demonstrated that the core idea of the service resonated well within my target group. The responses were more positive than I imagined and I noticed that the “belonging to nature” perspective towards our bodies is one that many finds comforting. The interest towards new methods of disposal was also promising. Many were curious, asked for details, or stated later that they researched further. This was a clear demonstration that there is indeed appetite in learning more. Feedback indicated that the information delivered through the service was accessible and engaging and educative.
In all the elements of the service, I was very careful to use an engaging visual and verbal language. This turned out to be a very important aspect because of the sensitivity of the subject. I received several positive feedback about the tone of the language used – it was even stated that it helped some to feel less anxious.
Overall, I found death to be a fascinating topic to research, think, talk, and design about. It is such a powerful concept that it has the potential to transform the way we perceive ourselves, our bodies, and our places in the universe, and I am glad that this project tried to build on this strength.