Collaborative Project 2021

Collaborative Project 2021

Reducing Residential Waste With PlantChow

Reducing Residential Waste With PlantChow


I designed a subscription composting service to provide environmentally conscious renters with a way to divert waste

A composting service designed specifically with Boston apartment renters in mind, PlantChow aims to divert landfill waste and reduce methane production in landfills.


User researcher, team lead


14 weeks


Industrial designer and UX designer


User interviews, storyboard sketches, high-fidelity prototypes, user test results

Problem Statement

Boston waste disposal neglects the importance of composting, upsetting environmentally conscious residents

MassDEP estimates that food waste accounts for more than 25 % of the waste stream in Massachusetts after recycling (over 1 million tons per year). U.S. EPA and MassDEP estimate that less than 10 % of food waste is currently diverted from disposal.


Preliminary Research

Experiencing Boston waste disposal first hand was surprisingly difficult

I conducted field research by grabbing coffee and documenting the experience of disposing trash downtown. New to the city, I ran into unforeseen difficulties.

Trash placed in odd places indicated that people want to dispose of things properly. They don’t because it is difficult to find a functioning or proper bin to do so.

Waste disposal is neglected

People want to dispose of things properly, but cannot

Understanding User Needs

Boston residents are dissatisfied with the trash and composting options available to them

I scripted and conducted 3 stakeholder interviews, which revealed that many renters do not have control over their disposal services. These are controlled by landlords, and all participants expressed a desire for composting services that were not provided.

Qualitative analysis and theme coding helped us craft personas around our interview participants.

Design Recommendations

I presented four recommendations to incorporate in a design solution

1. Standardize and expand waste disposal services
2. Incentivize and engage residents
3. Improve education about waste disposal
4. Streamline services and make it simpler to dispose properly

Design Concept 1: The “Ideal” Trash Room

Creating a model trash system for apartment complexes.

Addressing durability, capacity feedback, physical design of bins.

We did not pursue this concept because:

  • It lacked enough design aspects.

  • These changes would address annoyances, but not problems that have large-scale impacts.

Design Concept 2: Community Engagement Events

Planning local events meant to localize resources and engage people in environmentalism. Include: specialized disposal booths, educational activities for children, community clean-up volunteering.

We did not pursue this concept because:

  • Because it does not address everyday concerns.

  • People do not dispose of electronics often, and increasing education makes little immediate impact on the current experiences of people living in apartments.

Developing Our Service

My final design solution is a subscription-style compost service tailored to the renter's lifestyle

I conducted precedent research to identify business models which could guide us in designing our solution.

Solution 1

Incentivizing residents to participate in composting with tangible rewards delivered to their door

The key concept of PlantChow is allowing users to benefit tangibly from their composting efforts by receiving soil and produce created by their waste.

Rewards are specific to apartment lifestyle

Tangible results of their own efforts

Solution 2

Streamlining the waste disposal process with a mobile application where users can request and track pick-up

Users are able to request waste pick-up right at their doors or in designated locations at large apartment complexes.

User Feedback & Testing Implementation

Simulating the service to evaluate feasibility and get user feedback proved successful

To test the feasibility of the service, we used digital visualizations to simulate implementation at two locations - a 10 unit building and a large apartment complex.

All participants reported interest in using such a service

Door pick-up and locker models are inclusive of multiple home-types

Way Forward

A subscription-style composting service available to all residents, regardless of their rental situation

Our design allows people to compost even if their landlords or city do not provide composting services.


Motion should have a personable, welcoming feel.


Focus on tasteful, timeless, and minimalist interactions.


Motion should be functional and improve usability.


Uphold accessibility as a main priority.

Divert organic waste from landfills

Give residents autonomy in their lifestyle