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Project: ReHarvest.

App / Game / Technology, Food Waste / Consumer Issues, Global
New York City, USA

Our Mission

We are all master's students who are passionate about urban food solutions. Some of us are studying Sustainability Management, and one of us is studying Design for Social Innovation. We are acutely aware of the many problems with our food system, but we also recognize that virtually all sustainability issues are interconnected. While confronting the challenge of feeding a growing (and increasingly urban) world population, we believe that the current volume of food production is not the real problem. The waste side of the equation is too enormous to be ignored, and in fact holds great potential. We aim to design an intervention that addresses both issues simultaneously with an added benefit of fostering social interaction around food.

Jessica Wu: Farm/homestead enthusiast (former WWOOFer), compulsively anti-waste, ex-biologist, bird lover, worm bin steward.
Kristina Alnes: Avid cook with left-overs, experience in project management and marketing of organic foods, fond of numbers and kale chips.
Adam Gordon: Social entrepreneur, Co-Founder of NYCOMPOST, and fermentation enthusiast passionate about closing the loop between the waste stream and supply chain.
Josh Treuhaft: Systems thinker, design researcher and communication designer focused on solving complex environmental challenges. Equally comfortable doing fieldwork and community engagement as he is writing taglines and creating brand mockups in the studio. Interested in biomimicry solutions to urban system problems. A compost advocate for New York City. And he loves dinner parties.

Kristina Alnes

Columbia U, USA

Jessica Wu

Columbia U, New York

Adam Gordon

Columbia U, New York

Josh Treuhaft

SVA, USA

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Project Idea Submitted!

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ReHarvest.

don't waste it. someone will take it.

 

We are developing a food sharing website/app on which people create profiles (via their facebook) and can let their neighbors know that they have food that would go to waste and can be picked up for free. The idea is based on the concept of collaborative consumption and creating a localized food-waste sharing economy. In cities such as New York, where we are based, the proportion of single-person or non-family households is extremely high, which means that it is difficult for many people to purchase appropriate amounts of food and keep it all from spoiling. In addition, residents are often going on trips or moving out, and in the last-minute chaos, end up throwing out plenty of perfectly fresh food simply because there is no easy (or socially acceptable) way to put it 'up for grabs'; most people are isolated to various degrees and might not feel comfortable offering to their neighbors. We want to change this paradigm by offering a platform that facilitates this type of simple exchange. In a way, we aim to use technology to recreate the old custom of "borrowing a cup of sugar" from one's neighbor.

*The Problem:

Would-be discarded food is a mostly-untapped resource, so an intervention there would be more efficient than single-mindedly growing more food. Food waste is especially huge in cities with a large proportion of non-family households, because food items tend to be sold in larger quantities or packages than can be used by one person in a reasonable amount of time without careful planning. NYC in particular seems to have a food culture that is more centered on eating out than cooking, which results in a large number of occasional cooks who may purchase ingredients for a specific party or meal, but lack either the time or the interest to ensure that the unused remainders of those ingredients are incorporated into later meals. While the oft-proposed 'solution' of smaller portions or serving-sized packs may reduce food waste, it also creates excess packaging waste.

*Our Solution:

We want to foster communication, cooperation, and sharing in a way that doesn't exist on a broad scale yet. Our app would increase food access; equity issues would be limited to a bias toward users of internet/mobile technology. It should be simple, map-based, and searchable by location as well as type of food item. For the 'offerer,' the transaction must be at least as easy as taking out the trash, but instead be guilt-free. For the 'picker-upper,' it should be at least as easy as going to the supermarket, and he/she wouldn't need to bring a wallet. Both would have access to the potential bonus of making a new friend, or perhaps a good chat about food.

Rather than always try to grow more food, why not re-harvest what we already have?

 

Team Objectives

  • Keep food out of landfills and reduce the waste hauling burden  
  • Aid in the redistribution of food to people in need  
  • Facilitate more efficient use of food resources to reduce agricultural demand  
  • Help connect members of communities and encourage social interaction  
  • Increase awareness of food waste issues  

Process, Ideation, and Creation

Kristina Alnes
May 6, 2013

The ReHarvest team discussing solutions to food waste over left-over-bread-turned-french-toast

Jessica Wu
May 5, 2013

Evaluating current options

Earlier today we posted some caramels that we didn't need on Craigslist-free. Posting an ad there and then e-mailing back and forth is not the smoothest process, so I imagine it works better for large items like furniture, and less well for such small things as partial packages of candy. Nevertheless, we got a few responses and one person came to pick them up. Turns out he drove here! Not exactly our idea of hyper-local, but also pretty surprising that someone would go that far for a box of caramels...

Kristina Alnes
May 5, 2013

Good Ted talk on food waste

Interested in learning more about food waste? We recommend this TED talk by Tristram Stuart: The global food waste scandal. Perhaps you’ll get inspiration to make your Sunday dinner from this weeks left-overs.

Kristina Alnes
May 3, 2013

Love food – hate waste

A love of food and cooking often leads to odd left-overs, unsure what to do with half a head of broccoli or 2/3 bushel of chard? Check out this great British campaign for left-overs and tips on reducing food waste.