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A group project about Sustainability that provided an opportunity to address sustainability issues as designers. We addressed the issue of meat consumption with an aim to reduce it by shifting the consumer behaviour. Our target group was Chinese Students aged between 18 - 25. GreenLight is a Product + Service which helps reduce the meat consumption in Chinese Canteens by starting a conversation about its effects on the environment and helping them track their daily calorie and nutrition intake and the corresponding CO2 emissions produced.

Project Overview


Design for a problem addressing the issue of environmental sustainability.


A Product - Service which helps reduce the meat consumption in Chinese Canteens by starting a conversation about its effects on the environment and helping them track their daily calorie and nutrition intake and the corresponding CO2 emissions produced.


Researcher, UX Designer

December 2021 - January 2022


Bram Diem, Cai Cai, Jayneel Soni, Neha



General Research

To start off the project, my team and I researched about Sustainability. This research was done not only to increase our overall understanding of the issue but also to identify those areas which are most pressing to design for - which were researched more in detail. There are three aspects to sustainability: environmental, economic and social. A systemic change that addresses all three aspects of sustainability is necessary but for the scope of this project, we will focus on Environmental Sustainability. We researched about three most polluting industries - materials, transport and food. We identified the key areas in each domain.

Most Polluting


Aviation travel

Short car trips

Road freight

Last mile delivery


Lifetime extension


Manufacturing Efficiency




Storage & Transportation

Food waste

Meat consumption

Food & Meat Consumption

Food systems are important in all societies and are essential for long-term development, but their complexity necessitates a more holistic and integrated approach. The way we shop and eat has a big environmental impact. Hence we performed further research in the Food Industry and discovered three main directions: unsustainable diet (meat intake), food storage and transportation, and food wastage. We chose to study the issue of meat consumption because emissions of livestock industry are huge and awareness about the impact of meat is low.


Depletion of Amazon rainforest and treecover

Human rights abuses and land grabbing


Largest per capita meat consumption - USA

Largest total meat consumption - CHINA

Rise in methane emission

China has the biggest total meat consumption and this will only rise. China's past decades are marked by two large demographical developments: a rapid growth of population coupled with a large increase in GDP per capita. Thus middle class is rapidly growing driving up the per capita meat consumption. Thus we chose to design for China. To understand the role of meat in China, we studied the Chinese cuisine, types of meat in the Chinese meat industry, issues related to meat safety and quality, and the role of resources and trade in the meat industry. 

Consumer Behaviour

Research on Consumer Behavior reveals that individual consumption choices are having an unprecedented effects on the environment. The following the the latest trends in Consumer Behaviour.

  • 18-34 year olds are most likely to cut down meat consumption.

  • Reducing meat and animal product consumption is one the most prominent lifestyle changes.

  • Skepticism on the effects of reduction of meat consumption on the environment.

  • People from all income brackets are reducing meat and animal product consumption.

SHIFT is a framework which proposes that when a message or scenario leverages the 5 psychological aspects shown here, consumers are more likely to participate in pro-environmental behaviour. We referred to the SHIFT framework during Ideation to direct us on ways to influence consumer behaviour to reduce meat consumption.

Social influence

Habit formation

Individual self

Feelings & cognition


Target Users and Scenario

Focusing our design on the Chinese Population, we needed a more specific target group. We chose to design for Chinese Students because of their ability to have a longer lasting impact, they are more flexible in their habits, and are more likely to reflect critically on their habits. In order to gain an understanding of the lifestyle, values and diet of Chinese students we conducted interviews of 5 Chinese students.

Interview Insights

MSc Student

23 years old

MSc student

22 years old

MSc Student

24 years old

Lifestyle, Values and Diet of 5 Chinese Students

MSc Student

26 years old

Recent graduate

25 years old

Little knowledge about impacts of meat & sustainability

Little knowledge about meatless meals.

Try to eat healthy Chinese meals 

Complete meal - meat dish, vegies,  rice/noodles, soup)

Food is usually not self prepared

Staying fit is important to look more presentable and be productive

Hard to think of a complete vegetarian diet

Meat alternatives should taste the same as meat and should be cheaper

Mostly eat at school canteens


The results on the interviews are summarised into a persona - a fictional person that represents the user group in such a way that they can be designed for.

Young Student


Relation to Food & Sustainability


  • Food is important for nutrition and social purposes.

  • Most Chinese dishes contain meat and are considered very delicious.

  • Has little knowledge about healthy and complete meals without meat in them.

  • Is not aware of the negative impacts of eating meat on the environment.

  • Not very concerned about Sustainability - feels it is a trending topic but takes no personal responsibility.

  • Likes to eat healthy meals to lose weight and gain muscle.

  • Eats mostly Chinese meals (meat, vegetables, rice/noodles)

  • All three meals are at the university canteen.

My day in University - by Cai Cai

One of our teammates Cai Cai who is from China, mapped her day in the university which includes her experience of having meals at the canteen.


8:00 AM


"To catch up with the morning class, I run to the canteen to buy  buns and soy milk for breakfast"

12:30 PM


"When I come back at  noon, I go to the canteen to have a plate of rice and three dishes. I finish eating quicky and go back to my dorm for a nap"


8:00 PM

"It is the happiest moment of the day to come back after a whole day of classes. I order a takeaway. - usually fried chicken or beef noodles."


"This is my university canteen. They are usually next to university or dorms."

Chinese university/school canteens are large and are designed to serve thousands of students regularly. This is the primary reason for our focus on them. Chinese students generally live and eat on the campus, making it the ideal place to attempt raising an awareness and motivating the young Chinese populace to switch to more sustainable eating habits. We studied the environment of Chinese university canteen and collected data of total number of universities and canteens in China.

Empathy Map

To develop a deeper understanding of the target group we were designing for and understand their needs, we worked on an Empathy Map. The experience of a Chinese student in a Chinese canteen is summarised in an Empathy Map as what he sees, says and does, hears, thinks and feels. The pains represent the fears, frustrations and obstacles. The gains represent the wants, needs, success and goals. 

Empathy Map.jpg


  • Canteen environment is crowded and noisy.

  • Canteen space is moist, oily and uncomfortable.

  • Long queues.

  • Too many options for meal - difficult to choose.

  • Quantity of food is more than what is needed.

  • If arrived late, delicious food is sold out.

  • Sometimes canteen aunty prepares different dish and the contents are unknown.

  • Different dishes are sold at different counters based on the province - hard to choose.


  • Wants to know and select the meals quickly.

  • Does not want to wait in the queue.

  • Wants to know the quantity and contents of food.

  • Wants to eat healthy and balanced meal.

  • Better canteen environment.

  • Wants to eat the food needed when arrived at the canteen.

  • Wants to find a clean seat quickly.

  • Wants to finish the meals quickly and get back to the routine.

Design Challenge

We worked on the 5W1H questions to define the problem which helped us frame the design  challenge for this project.

Chinese students (18 - 25 year olds)


decrease meat consumption per meal




lunch and dinner


expected wealth & population growth leading to increased meat consumption


by influencing or SHIFTing their behaviour



Chinese students (18 - 25 year olds)


eat less meat per meal at the canteen


meat consumption is growing in China and is unsustainable



We set the design challenge and started working on the programme of criteria (list of requirements) for our design solution. Various demands and wishes were listed in the programme of criteria. Next, we started ideation. After the first round of ideation which was done individually, the ideas were clustered into 5 categories - Promoting Vegetarian Dishes, Replacement of Meat, Awareness, Smaller Portion of Meat and Miscellaneous. After categorizing the ideas, we re-ideated them. My ideation within these 5 areas is showcased here.

Cluster 1.png

To select the ideas that are most innovative and highly feasible we used C-Box Method. C-Box is a 2x2 matrix in which the two axes represent the criteria according to which the ideas are evaluated. Ideas represented in the 4th quadrant are re-ideated using the SCAMPER method and three concepts are developed.

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The ideas selected using the C-Box were SCAMPERed and developed into three different concepts for the Chinese canteens. All three concepts were detailed with main idea behind the concept, business case and cost estimation. We selected the most important wishes from our programme of criteria and using the Harris Profile, we evaluated them. After a thorough discussion we decided to further detail the Dynamic Wall concept and include the Canteen Tableware concept in the solution trajectory.

Concept 1
Tofu Machine


- by Neha & Jayneel

Description: A playful tofu ball and tofu cube dispensing machine that challenges the students to grow more trees on the display by replacing portions of meat on their plate with tofu.​

Business Case: A rent based system in which a start up manufacturing these machines to promote tofu usage over meat pitches to universities.

Cost Estimation:

Production Cost $5000 - 7000 

Wholesale Cost $4000 - $5500

Concept 2
Canteen Tableware


- by Bram

Description: Replacing the current canteen tableware with the new ones which are designed to help in meat consumption reduction through awareness and conscious choice.​ For e.g. Chopsticks - have illustrations which educate the user about the origin of meat.

Glass - designed to educate about the origin of meat and water consumed in the process.

Business Case: Subsidizing or using low-cost production techniques.

Cost Estimation:

Tray - $ 3; Chopsticks - $3;

Divider Bowl - $2; Glass - $2.5

Concept 3
Dynamic Wall


- by Cai Cai

Description: Making people aware of what a more sustainable diet is and making them choose such meals. Canteen dishes are labelled according to the CO2 emissions produced by them. When the meal of a student produces lesser emissions, a green light on the wall lights up.​

Business Case: Collecting data on the meal consumption behaviour of students and selling it to companies interested. App subscription charges are to be paid by the students.

Cost Estimation: $6400

Design Solution- GreenLight


To learn more about the project click the link to project report -

Dish Labels

Many specialized food carbon footprint calculators exist. All carbon footprint values consider each stage of the food's lifecycle. This includes the farming processes, food and fertilisers utilised, processing, packaging, transport and more. We selected two common Chinese dishes served at the canteen and calculated their carbon footprint values using a calculator. Values of other dishes can also be calculated in the same way. We also categorised the dish labels that will be placed in front of the dishes in the canteen. Dishes that meet the sustainability standards are labeled in green and the rest in gray. Since a globally fair food emissions value is 3.02kg CO2e/day, we set less than 1kg CO2e/day to be more sustainable. A typical meal per student will have three dishes, so we set the label for dishes that produce less than 300g CO2e/day to be green.

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Meal Tracker App

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Business Case

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Screenshot (98).png

For detailed business case, check out the project report -


The Proposed Solution - Scenario

- by Cai Cai

Adobe After Effects

User Tests

We created a questionnaire to test the users after they watched the the concept video and the app prototype.  The results are summarised here.

  • The participants were mainly people who consume meat everyday and were initially not very aware of the environmental problems caused by meat consumption. 

  • More than half of the participants thought that the dynamic wall design would make them more aware of the need for a more sustainable diet. 

  • Nearly half of the participants were willing to use the app.

  • 20% of the participants would be willing to spend $2/month to subscribe to the app, which exceeds the assumption in our business model that 10% of the students would subscribe to the app.

We also received very interesting suggestions to our design solution, some of which are as follows

  • Record data on body changes.

  • Build a community where you can share your sustainable achievements.

  • Connect with Google Fit or other brands.

  • Visualise data on sustainability.

Feedback from Test Participants

"I am an overweight person and I consume a lot of meat. Realising how much harm I may cause to the environment on a daily basis will be an eye opener for me. Providing progress on weight loss journey is somethings that is well designed for users."

"It would be nice to share my carbon footprint with my friends."

"I would be more motivated if I could build a sustainable community if I could know sustainable data such as carbon emissions while viewing the menu."

"Can connect with Google Fit/Fitness brands to give more information on personal health. Can have weekly blasts on how to live more sustainably."

"You can set up leaderboards where you can interact with other or visualise the data - e.g. 30% reduction in CO2 emissions this week compared to the last week which is equivalent to three private cars (3 cars appear at this point)."

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