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Every day we’re exposed to chemicals through the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the products we use. Many of them pose a threat to our health and well-being. Melanie Povlitzki and Sofia Germani have dedicated their final codesign master’s thesis project to exploring how to help people reduce their daily dosage of potentially harmful chemicals.

Melanie and Sofia writes: Together with Coop Denmark, we’ve codesigned a new way of educating customers about harmful chemicals in everyday products and how to avoid them. In order to make the often overwhelming and ominous topic of chemicals more simple and approachable, we’ve created a scavenger hunt at the supermarket, through which customers have the opportunity to learn about the chemicals in a playful and engaging way while they shop. The activity is primarily targeted towards families with kids, in order to start educating early on about how to make healthier choices.

A major strength of the design is that it makes the otherwise invisible chemicals, visible. One of the reasons chemicals are so dangerous is that you can’t see them, and their effects may only reveal themselves over time. Because of this, people might not feel the pressure to change their habits, or even know how to avoid the chemicals. By making them present and visible in the supermarket, the subject becomes more concrete and immediately relevant for customers, enabling them to act on the new knowledge and make choices that take chemicals into account.

In addition to making it easier for customers, the design solution provides a way for Coop members to engage in the issue. We’ve designed the scavenger hunt as a kit to be used by volunteer members for spreading knowledge about how to avoid chemicals with fellow customers. This provides a way of engaging in Coop’s voluntary structure that goes beyond selling products, and enables local engagement around a topic of concern.

Having changed our own consumption habits for health-related reasons, and noticing the positive effect it can have, we chose to share with others that living healthier lives doesn’t have to be hard. By focusing on consumption and making it easier for customers to make better choices, we believe that we can help move production in a cleaner, healthier direction. Sometimes we forget that it is ultimately us, consumers, who decide what’s on the supermarket shelves through our purchasing decisions. By demanding cleaner products, Coop and other producers will have a greater incentive for cleaning up their products and providing healthier alternatives.

They have been working with UN Goal 3 and 12.

MelSofiaPortrait_smallSofia Germani and Melanie Povlitzki in collaboration with Coop Denmark.

Contact: Sofia: smgermani@gmail.com  //  Melanie: melaniepovlitzki@gmail.com

Learn more about the thesis project at the Design and Architecture Graduation Exhibition 1/7 – 13/8 2017 from 11.00 – 18.00 at KADK. Address: Udstillingen and Festsalen, Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 51-53, 1435 Copenhagen K.

About Eva Brandt

Eva Brandt is Professor in Social Design at Design School Kolding since May 2019. Eva is scientific leader of the Lab for Social Design. The main part of her research is about how designers can stage open design processes (design labs based on participatory design/codesign) with many participants who both can inquire into existing practices and explore possible futures in common. She also contributes to theorizing about experimental design research driven by programs and experiments. She has been contributing to several books such as Design Spaces (IT Press, 2005), Rehearsing the Future (The Danish Design School Press, 2010), XLAB (The Danish Design School Press, 2011), Facilitating Change – Using Interactive Methods in Organizations, Communities and Networks (Polyteknisk Forlag, 2011), and Routledge International Handbook of Participatory Design (Routledge, 2013). Practice Based Design Reseach (2017). Ledelse og samskabelse i den offentlige sektor (2018). Eva has been chairing the Nordic Design Research Conference in 2013, and are chairing the Nordes 2021 too.
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