In her thesis Prosumerism: Crafting Alternate Consumption Experiences, Sowmya Iyer explores whether products and services can ease the consumer’s guilt of excessive spending and materialism by providing them with options that best fit their values of sustainability. She also wanted to find out if these products/services could be adaptive to the consumer’s lifestyle and built for their convenience. As part of her research process, Sowmya spoke to researchers, innovators, educators, authors, and artists exploring ways to reduce the effects of modern consumerism on the environment. Sowmya realized that it is almost impossible to bring people out of their comfort zones and ask them to reconfigure their daily routines to fit their best intentions—especially if following through on their best intentions is expensive, inconvenient, or takes tremendous effort. “Insights from the interviews confirmed my belief that behavior change is extremely difficult. It is much more likely to happen if the act of doing something is delightful,” she stated.

Sowmya endeavored to design interventions that suit the user’s lifestyle, and would inherently be more environmentally friendly and sustainable. She also aimed to foster more meaningful transactions between objects and people, and maneuver the users’ best intentions into actions. Sowmya mentioned, “If given an opportunity, many of us would make choices that are ‘less bad.’ That can be done by designing systems that provide the user tools and capabilities to facilitate those decisions.” She believes that it is the designer’ and manufacturer’s collective responsibility to create products while paying heed to their disassembly, recyclability, longevity, and material reuse. “If everything we consumed was thoughtfully designed to go back into the system, it would reduce waste and would be, by default, sustainable,” she suggested.


DOT&DASH

DOT&DASH is a cradle-to-cradle furniture brand that focuses on handpicking discarded furniture that can be upcycled into a modular piece. Customers can add elements to their collection and create their own unique pieces of furniture to suit different contexts.

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The Inside/Out Bag

The Inside/Out Bag is a shopping bag that has a prepaid shipping label printed on the inside. Once the consumer makes a purchase and receives this bag, they turn the bag inside out, place old clothes they wish to donate into it, and mail it back to the store or thrift store.

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Urge

Urge is an online shopping platform that provides users sustainable alternatives to whatever they wish to buy. It works as a Chrome extension and eliminates hours of researching products through different websites. The aim is to increase visibility of socially responsible brands and provide easy discovery and transparency to the consumer. Both the seller and the consumer become active participants in making choices for the greater good.

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HeRo

HeRo Is a smart kitchen appliance—designed with “part-share modularity” that expands its functionality and minimizes clutter. The base unit is a combination of a single motor and a high-efficiency induction heating coil. To make it simple and elegant, RFID chips are embedded in the various attachments that sit on the base unit. When an attachment is placed on the base, an OLED display comes to life and shows relevant controls.

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OBIT

OBIT is a service that enables people to discover the value of an object. When customers upload a picture of an item they want to get rid of, Obit acts as an assistant and asks them targeted questions to elicit a thoughtful response. It helps the user decide whether to keep the item, donate it, resuscitate it, or trade it.

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To learn more about Sowmya Iyer’s work, look at her projects in more detail on www.sowmyaiyer.com. To contact her about work opportunities, or to simply congratulate her on a job well done, send a note to siyer2@sva.edu or sowmya.iyer2015@gmail.com.