Carnegie Mellon University
cyochum_Masters_Design_2022_R.pdf (10.56 MB)

Reimagining Social Practices for Encouraging Reuse in Communal Dining Contexts

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posted on 2022-07-14, 17:36 authored by Catherine Yochum

As the Center for Architecture’s Zero Waste Design Guidelines state, “Waste is a design flaw” (Zero Waste Design Guidelines). Natural systems find ways to recycle materials endlessly through millenia; meanwhile, modern production and consumption has created non-biodegradable and non-repairable products that are used and discarded, polluting landfills and waterways. Our interactions with objects and (what we consider to be) waste are situated both in our immediate contexts and larger scale societal structures, as well as influenced by what has been designed in the past. Social practices are the shared, habitual norms and behaviors that mediate these interactions. While there are many ongoing efforts to transition to a more circular economy, it is likely that “social frictions” (St. Pierre et al, 2018, p. 11) will arise as norms, rules, and mindsets change around situations and practices that were previously sources of waste generation. There is an opportunity to create designs that lean into these social practices, as well as the collaborations required for change and friction created by change, in order to explore alternatives to our current throwaway culture. I situate this study by using participatory methods to explore transitions on CMU's campus that enable and encourage widespread use of reusable utensils.




Degree Type

  • Master's Thesis


  • Design

Degree Name

  • Master of Design (MDes)


Stacie Rohrbach Kristin Hughes

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