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Meet Recicleta.

Transforming post-consumer potato chip bags into a viable product for social good.

Overview

As part of my student exchange at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Santiago), I enrolled in a Design Management course. 

Throughout this class, we discussed design-thinking methodology with an emphasis on sustainable business practices.

Our final project was presented as a seemingly simple, collaborative challenge:

Create value from something that has no value.

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| Our multiple attempts taught us the importance of the iterative process. Seeking constant feedback from our target audience, we were able to test our visions/hypotheses and back our results with the information we learned along the way.

The Process

Split into four teams, our class ventured beyond the room in search of potential materials to innovate upon given the following guidelines:

 

  • High availability

  • In good condition

  • Discarded continuously with time

  • Non-organic

We dug through garbage cans and sifted through recycling bins to produce as many different material options as possible.

My group noticed a particular abundance in potato chip/snack bags--an important realization in the context of our initially non-existent budget and the given framework of the challenge.

After a rapid-fire ideation session, our group decided to leverage the snack bags' unique, metallic characteristic to create reflective stickers for bicycles. 

Our decision to pursue this idea is best illustrated in Switch by Chip and Dan Heath (one of my favorite books)--a change can begin by first finding the bright spots.

 

Instead of focusing on what value doesn't exist in these snack bags, how can we shift our thinking to identify what value does exist?

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Competing against three additional product teams, our reflective bicycle stickers was the project of choice that the whole class would produce, market, and sell.

Creating a design that would maximize our material use and minimize budget needs, we developed a graphic form to be laser cut (also optimizing our time, given our deadline).

The class divided itself into four teams based upon our skillsets:

  • Production

  • Marketing

  • Logistics

  • Finances

We would all continuously sell the resulting products and revisit each step of the process as needed, without sacrificing consistency. 

I feel both most inspired and best equipped to assist in the strategy behind the design--turning observations into actionable creative insights.

 

In turn, I joined the marketing team to develop our message, build our approach and design our product, all while working closely with the other three teams. We integrated my illustrations into our package design, as we felt that hand drawn designs conveyed the homemade, playful feel that captured the grassroots spirit of the project as a whole.

My role: product design (product + packaging), marketing/branding, selling strategy

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The Outcome

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Priced at 1,000 Chilean pesos per pack, we sold 900 stickers to reach our 900,000 goal, which would be donated to a local effort aligned with our values.

The organization of choice, Pump Track Retiro, used the donation to rebuild its kid-friendly bike track in Quilpué, Chile.

While we each had our own designated team, we reached a point in the process where it was necessary to contribute where  needed to maintain a sense of flow. 

We recognized the skills needed in each team to be successful, but even more importantly, we understood the value of diverse perspectives in creating a unified project. 

Open communication is of the utmost importance in actualizing a shared intention, a common purpose--the more information shared, the more information we can build upon to improve our project. 

With this, environment is key. Creating a space that nurtures innovations means collaboratively building an atmosphere where individuals feel safe and free psychologically, physically, and emotionally. Creativity rises from moments of stillness in our minds--how can we reduce the excess chatter in our heads?

 

The Challenges and Learnings

Let go and delegate--you can't (and shouldn't) do everything.

As a systems-thinker and a meticulous worker, I often see detailed concepts in a larger picture. In turn, there is an initial desire to control each part of the product's process to achieve an intention. Although I may find a superficial sense of peace in this control, this restricts the flow that brings a united feeling of success. I ease this desire to control through reflection and open communication.

Collaboration first requires introspection--understanding your strengths and weaknesses. In doing so, team members can evaluate where their efforts will be most useful and where each person will feel most fulfilled. Just as every individual is different, every group dynamic varies. Taking time to reflect, value your own skills, and embracing the strengths of others is critical in creating a smooth, working system. 

I found that my role was rooted in my ability (and drive) to listen to and uplift others. I assisted in developing not only the story of our product, but also the story of our group (why and how we would achieve our goal). Working with ~25 classmates offered an opportunity to observe natural macro and micro group dynamics in a certain ecosystem.  Success follows an understanding of potential, which requires understanding one another. There are individuals that voice their opinions more outwardly than others--how can we identify the potential in all contributing members and unite in a way that fosters innovation?

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