Since mass industrialization, the past few centuries have seen abundant growth and prosperity for humankind, but not so much for the planet. With little regard for the environment, industrialization has caused all kinds of pollution, loss of natural areas and biodiversity among others, and this carries a cost. This cost can be expressed as ecological debt that future generations must pay. By honing into the ecological debt accumulated by cities, Kuan Xu attempts to redeem by introducing the concept of ecological service and its significance. The design interventions then take a variety of lenses to advocate for ecological service design to instigate environmental consciousness and awareness driven action in the urban environment. With the mission of introducing ecological service into the city, and city dwellers adopting it, Kuan presents his thesis—Symbiosis, Ecological Services for the Urban Environment.

For a better understanding of the natural ecosystem, Kuan interviewed a variety of experts, including biologists, environmental scientists, and animal scientists. He facilitated a co-creation workshop involving designers and a variety of people working within biology to ideate and prototype for potential solutions to mitigate effects of global warming. Then, he identifies four potential impediments that may be in the way of his mission due to the distinctive attributes of a natural environment and a city environment.

  • Ecological service in the city sometimes requires city dwellers to share space with natural elements which they resent.
  • Ecological service is a long and dull process which city dwellers don’t have the patience for.
  • Ecological service requires the articulation and commitment that ordinary city dwellers don’t possess.
  • Ecological service doesn’t have a mainstream appeal which city dwellers are attracted to.
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Beecastle

Beecastle is a home and art gallery for artistic bees. It utilizes abandoned infrastructures around the city and fashions them into beehive clusters based on the reason that bees thrive better in the urban environment. Beecastle frames and displays beehives as installation art to attract human visitors, and separate the active areas between bees and human to avoid accidents. Thus eliminating prior anxieties regarding bees thriving within urban environments.

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Theatree

Theatree is an interactive theatrical experience on the life of a tree, where you can play as the almighty Kage Okami, a godlike character that can use the power of shadows. Every shadow you cast on the screen has a consequence on the life of the tree and the ecosystem around it. At the very end of the experience, the participant will receive a bonus from the shadow tree as a gesture of gratitude—a seed bomb(A tool of guerrilla gardening) so that they can actualize the experience of growing a plant in real life.

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Tip it

Tip it is a simple, secure and automatic way to donate based on individuals’ impact on the environment, through a mobile application. Users sign up for the app by linking to their mobile banking app so that the app can get their transaction records. TIP IT ranks users' transactions from A to D according to Life Cycle Analysis, and the lower rank that this transaction belongs to, the more money users will tip. Then, TIP IT picks an environmental aspect that the transaction has damaged the most and automatically tips a small percentage of that transaction to a suitable organization that works on solving the problem.

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Bloom

Bloom is a biotech wearable that allows the user to incorporate bio-enhanced algae into their respiratory system. Users can enjoy many of the benefits that algae offer, such as algae-based superfood, oxygen, and body-temperature regulation by merely providing algae with the carbon dioxide they exhale. It is embedded with a micro-hydro pump powered by a bioreactor that ensures continuous vital flow for the algae. There is also a synthetic membrane that allows the user and algae to breathe in tandem. The collapsible design is a choice for both fashion and functionality.

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