Carnegie Mellon University
ekaravdi_Masters_Design_2020.pdf (8.38 MB)

Beyond Big Beef: Transitions to Food Citizenship Through Community

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posted on 2020-06-29, 21:58 authored by Ema KaravdicEma Karavdic
the midst of a climate crisis, recent studies have proven that a shift towards a sustainable diet can have a is proportionately large impact on reducing emissions. These studies specifically indicate that the amount, type, and source of meat we choose to consume have large
climate implications when aggregated. This presents an important opportunity to have a tangible contribution to the climate crisis as individuals, and together as a community.
However, dietary change is not a simple feat, especially when it comes to meat. While many of us are supportive of reduced emissions, there is often a large gap between our attitudes and our actual behaviors. Within this gap lie deep cultural and personal implications that meat has fostered over time, which are also reinforced through everyday habits. The Big Beef industry has also transformed the meat system into a black box, disconnecting us from the broader implications of its consumption. This disconnect makes it incredibly hard to move past the cultural and personal connection we have to meat. It becomes increasingly clear that in order to make a tangible contribution to sustainable dietary change, collective action is required. The power of a
united, collective response to a crisis has never been made more evident than through the responses to the global pandemic of COVID-19. As a result, my study focuses on and leverages a group that has strong, existing community influence—first-time expecting and new parents—as a
means of exploring the potential for people to shift large systems. This community shares a common, life-changing experience that often prompts reflection on existing habits, especially when it comes to food, and has the potential to influence the habits of those around them. Therefore, my study asks: how we can empower first-time expecting and
new parents to become engaged food citizens and consequently, ambassadors for change in their communities, thereby shifting the food system from the bottom up?
My research, which is rooted in transition design, social practice theory and learning theory, situates problems related to dietary change within a systems lens. By identifying logical and appropriate intervention points in
the system, this thesis investigates opportunities where design can be used to leverage existing personal and community values, integrating sustainability lessons into interventions to create positive change. Two potential interventions—Munch and Family Fuel—were explored and
proposed in the study to address individual everyday eating habits. Finally, this thesis defines a preferable future that the two interventions are working towards, highlighting important systemic milestones and backcasting a possible pathway forward. Given that Munch and FamilyFuel exist in a system, this thesis depicts how they could integrate with other existing and future interventions on a pathway to successfully drive momentum towards the preferable future and reduce the human impact on our planet.


CMU GSA/Provost Gush Funding; Kynamatrix Research Network "Innovation Through Collaboration" 2020 Grant Award




Degree Type

  • Master's Thesis


  • Design

Degree Name

  • Master of Design (MDes)


Stacie Rohrbach Cheryl Dahle

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