Sustainability Design Challenge - Previous Concepts

Sustainability Design Challenge 2022

Team Cisternability is focused on making the currently unused 30,000-gallon cistern located behind the cafeteria usable. In a previous round of on campus improvements, USF spent tens of thousands of dollars to install an underground cistern to collect rainwater from the rooftops of Lo Schiavo, Harney Science Center, and Privett Plaza and reuse the water across campus at a later time. However, USF was prevented from doing so by the city because the water was not treated. To remedy this, Team Cisternability proposes utilizing solar distillation to activate the unused cistern and reduce USF’s overall water footprint.  The simplicity of a solar distillation system can accommodate for any budget. High-tech solar distillation systems can store thermal energy for rainy days with optimal efficiency, but low-cost, effective basin solar stills can be constructed for $100-$200 a unit. Utilizing low-cost solar distillation, the over 240,000 gallons of rainwater captured by the collection surfaces can be treated and stored for later usage, helping to make USF a more sustainable place and leading the way by utilizing innovative, low cost water treatment facilities.


: Global warming is a major concern of the actual climate change scenario (Marques, Nunes, Moore, & Strom, 2010). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), anthropogenic activities have been the responsible of the increase of 1 °C, being 1.53 °C higher between 2006 and 2015 with respect to the temperatures of the pre-industrial era (years 1850–1900) (IPCC, 2019). Up to 23% of the total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are derived from agriculture, forestry and other land uses, which are among the major contributors to global warming (IPCC, 2019). Among agricultural practices, the livestock industry is also an important contributor to global climate change, contributing between 12% and 18% to the total GHG emissions (Gomez-Zavaglia et al., 2020, Allen and Hof, 2019).

In the Western United States global warming exacerbates the ongoing megadrought. Currently nearly three-quarters of California is in either extreme or exceptional drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. It’s so bad that scientists say the current drought in the western United States marks the region’s driest 22-year stretch in more than 1,200 years. This drought results in water scarcity in the region, therefore Gov. Gavin Newsom called on Californians to voluntarily cut water use by 15%. There is tons of media coverage that focuses on the excesses of residential water use: long showers, swimming pools, lawn watering, at-home car washes. Or in the business sector, like irrigating golf courses or pumping water into hotel fountains in Las Vegas. 

But a recent study (Water scarcity and fish imperilment driven by beef production) uncovered a very different story about where most Western water goes and how water consumption could be reduced on a far larger scale. They found that crop irrigation accounts for 86% of the water usage in the 17 Western states. Out of those crops the cattle-feed crops (including alfalfa and grass hay and haylage, corn silage and sorghum silage) are the single largest consumptive users at both regional and national scales, accounting for 23% of all water consumption nationally, 32% in the western US and 55% in the Colorado River basin. 

We feel that the distribution between the water usage across sectors is not widely known since it’s often portrayed differently throughout media outlets. People are incentivized to make a difference by reducing their personal water consumption, when in reality their impact could be much higher when adjusting their dietary habits to reduce their meat consumption especially beef. We feel that currently there are no incentives given to students to adjust their diet by reducing their meat intake at the USF cafeteria and therefore a meaningful way to make a difference in USF’s overall water footprint is not realized. Solution: 

We came across ‘Meatless Monday’, an international campaign that encourages people to not eat meat on Mondays to improve their health and the health of the planet. We would like to introduce this concept at the USF by promoting vegetarian options on Mondays and provide information about the campaign and the relationship to the current drought we are experiencing as well as the overall impact meat consumption has on CHG emissions.

Collaboration with Bon Appetit, who is running the cafeterias at USF, to promote vegetarian options and also measure the impact of the campaign on the % of vegetarian meals being sold. Background: When starting to research what end consumers can do in order to reduce GHG emissions, the topic you come across quickly is meat consumption and its contribution to global warming. Upon further researching ideas to inform people on this topic in a meaningful way and how to make vegetarian options more appealing, we came across the Meatless Monday movement and how this initiative has been successfully rolled out across multiple schools, universities and businesses. We also wanted to include information that is relevant to USF students and found a study on how much meat production contributes to the current drought in the Western States and thought this would be a great way to inform people about the immense impact this could have. Feasibilty: We believe that every individual has an inherent desire to contribute to the betterment of the world and environment around them. But it is often believed that ‘Sustainability’ and ‘green initiatives’ are more relevant to the corporations and governments and provide limited or no scope for individual contributions. But the idea of ‘Meatless Mondays’, showcases how individuals can contribute significantly to the betterment of the world without going out of their way by spending time, money and effort, but by simply abstaining from meat for one day in a week. Impact: We can use the Difference in Difference method to assess the reduction in the consumption of meat products on Mondays vis a vis the other days before and after the implementation of the scheme. For this we require sales/consumption/meat purchases data from the cafeterias/dining halls on the campus.


Connect students to extra Community Garden produce.” Our problem is food waste and scarcity. Our solution is a platform that shows students the extra produce in a platform. This will be executed by making a website/app and finding a student employee. This lower food scarcity / food waste, garden & environmental education, fitting students’ dietary needs, and gardening > grocery shopping.

Currently, USF student housing is being overwhelmed by packages arriving for students. Amazon’s carbon footprint has also risen every year for the past four years, despite their pledge to have zero-emissions by 2024. USF students are playing a part in this by the hundreds of packages coming in monthly to on-campus residents. Our solution is to launch an awareness campaign focused towards students- especially those who are living on campus. Our first step is to post fliers detailing how to properly dispose of packaging materials and how to use Amazon Day group ordering. On each poster is a QR code, linking students to our website where additional information is posted and broken down. Furthermore, plastic film, which is what most packages come in, is not recyclable in the same group that other plastics are. In most disposal places, USF sorts items between landfill, recyclables, and compost. We suggest adding a fourth disposal option, for plastic film, to keep more items out of landfills. Currently, 180,000 packages are delivered to USF per year, with each student ordering an estimate of 45 annually. This is above the national average, which is 24 packages. Our goal is to reduce package numbers by 20% per year. Combined with USF’s pre-existing solar energy set-up, this is the equivalent of taking 354 cars off the road per year. This program will help USF reach their pledge to be carbon neutral by 2050 Additionally, 64% of USF's waste is diverted from landfills. By adding a further recycling program, this number will be increased. Due to the nature of our awareness campaign, implementing this program comes at very little cost to the university and students. Our minimal costs would only come from adding a fourth recycling option. When polled, 88% of USF students chose to reduce or recycle, showing that there is a conscious effort in the student body. Our program would add a simple option for USF students to further their recycling and sustainable lifestyles.

Our project uses information gathered by eGauge meters installed in campus buildings to create a dashboard detailing energy consumption as it relates to sustainability goals.  The purpose of the dashboard is twofold: provide much-needed transparency surrounding energy sustainability targets and consumption to students, while simultaneously providing USF administration with a flexible, in-house energy management solution (this would replace USF’s current, expensive out-sourced solution, leading to immediate cost savings). We have assembled a team of 8+ student engineers/designers passionate about implementing this project sustainably over the long run after the end of the challenge. Academic research has suggested that having a dashboard as a constant reminder of sustainability goals and energy consumption decreases energy consumption greatly. Additionally, the dashboard is flexibly designed and served in ReactJS, so it could be hosted on many different platforms, from the televisions around campus, to USF’s website itself. This also means we can tailor our solution to the evolving needs of USF’s administration.

We discovered that the majority of people are unaware of current energy trends and how they impact the environment, therefore we made the decision to address this. Our team proposes a dashboard that would be displayed in the common areas of each building to show off the campus's energy usage and any environmental initiatives. Concerned authorities will have a separate dashboard with many other metrics, such as the energy consumed, it’s CO2 equivalent and so on. Visitors and students can view the information and stay up-to-date with the energy consumption trends of the university and adjust their energy usage accordingly.
Few features included will be:

  •  Creating custom visualization and graphics we want.
  •  Creating Alerts to be notified when key data points change
  •  Energy consumption can also be viewed as their emissions/CO2 equivalent.
  •  Determine performance problems to increase building efficiency
  •  Visualize patterns over time, comprehend the factors that influence our expenses.

We created a prototype of the dashboard using data from the USF Office of Sustainability and frameworks such as Flask and Svelte API. Our goal is to increase awareness on the matter and get the community more involved in the issue. We think that over time, individual contributions can have a big influence by increasing efficiency.

To-go boxes are a common sight in the campus as they are a convenient, and only, way to carry food around campus. However, these boxes are very unsustainable as many end up in the trash and fill up bins very quickly due to their size, making disposal very inefficient. In addition, the cost of these to-go boxes adds up very quickly which can be very difficult for students, especially for those without meal plans. We propose a system that utilizes reusable containers that creates a more sustainable campus without sacrificing too much on the convenience of disposable containers. USF would be able to save on the costs of buying disposable containers and create a cleaner campus. Students would have a more flexible option to take/return these containers around the campus and save on money through different forms of incentives. Problem to solve: Based on a Google Form that we disseminated amongst peers, we found that 87.7% out of 57 students get takeaway boxes once a day to multiple times a day. This gives us a modest estimate of 76 takeout boxes used per day. However, only 5.4% of them recycle the takeaway boxes, with 71.9% of students either rarely or never composting the boxes. This could be due to the fact that many students do not have bins for compostable waste in their rooms and may not have time to sort their trash, hence they throw biodegradable food containers into bins for landfills. Without enough oxygen to break down the containers, they pose as much environmental harm as regular PET plastic. 


We are targeting students that use takeaway boxes multiple times a day. We propose the use of reusable stainless steel containers that can be placed in return bins located in dorms and cafeterias, since they are the most common areas where students consume food. They will then be brought to the cafeteria for cleaning daily at 11am. Not only do stainless steel containers cultivate the least amount of

bacteria,5 they are also able to withstand high temperatures and can hence be sterilized with hot water. The containers will have barcode labels that students will need to scan to link to their student accounts, which will allow the tracking of the container’s status (borrowed or returned). Each student will be allowed to borrow up to three containers at a time. If they return it within a day, there will be no fees incurred. However, for every subsequent 24 hours, they will be charged $0.75. 

Background: Biodegradable items may still contain plastic and when it begins to biodegrade it can release methane into the atmosphere, which traps even more heat than CO2. Compostable items produce CO2 and can take months to years to decompose. 

Feasibility: Our solution does not require much deviation from one’s usual pattern as there will be return bins located conveniently in the first level of each dorm and in both cafeterias. We can roll it out a few hundred at a time in order to gauge the interest within the student body. The stainless steel containers are $1.40/pc. We will need 9 trash bins that go for $14.40/container. For manpower issues, we could create more openings in the kitchen to employ more federal work-study students. 

Impact: Since a large majority of students get takeaway boxes but do not compost them, we can greatly reduce the amount of biodegradable takeout containers that reach landfills. If possible, we could even entirely replace it with the more sustainable option of reusing stainless steel containers. With biodegradable plastics such as PLA releasing around 1.6kg CO2/kg of plastic6 when in landfills and the weight of an individual takeaway box being around 0.3kg, we estimate that we could save up to 63.8kg CO2 daily. 3% of total energy use annually (2017)

We are looking to solve the above problem by having Bon Appetit allow for patrons to dictate their desired portion size. We would like the cafe to change its ordering style to accommodate a portion focused approach. You would be able to dictate the size of the portion of food you were receiving. So instead of ordering just chicken tenders and receiving 4, you could order 2 chicken tenders. We could also extend this to instead of ordering a GIANT burrito there could be a smaller tortilla size. Having customizable portions is something that is commonplace in the restaurant industry and it would be easy to implement into USF’s Oracle ordering system. In order to make this a viable option for Bon Appetit, we would encourage them to implement a cost structure where the new smaller portion would be more expensive by food volume, but slightly cheaper when the fixed cost of a to-go box is removed from the equation. 
The idea we are presenting is not new to the world, but it could be a major shift for the USF community. The fact that this way of ordering is a system we are all comfortable with would make adoption simple and have little pushback. By reducing the size of the portions we are eliminating the need for a to-go box. This elimination of a to-go box fixed cost will then make it cheaper to buy a single half slice. This will reduce the need for a to-go box, food being thrown away, increase Bon Appetit’s margin, and save the patron money by eliminating the fixed cost of a to-go box. 

The problem is that USF has inadequate micromobility racks. Given that bicycle use is on the up, with a 14% increase of bicyclists from 2018-2019 in San Francisco, this is becoming an increasing problem as USF Bike and scooter racks are too few, far from buildings, and not easily accessible. This is an issue for students, faculty, and university visitors who would like to ride their bicycles or scooters to campus. As a result, other modes of transportation such as cars and buses are used. Furthermore, students are observed taking bicycles and scooters inside buildings which block hallways and classroom entrances.
Our proposal is to implement more viable bike/scooter (micromobility) racks in more convenient places, which will further encourage riding bikes and scooters to school. We propose 'smart' micromobility racks, which include a locking mechanism and a charging mechanism, making riding to USF an easier user experience, and enable tracking data on rack usage. Rack usage data is especially valuable to make data-driven decisions around future transportation initiatives. Furthermore, 'smart racks' can be used with one card and be linked to dons dollars to create a source of income for USF to be used for other economic initiatives. These 'smart' racks create a healthier student population and increase the attractiveness of USF to potential students. ‘Smart racks' are relatively inexpensive compared to other infrastructure changes and can have a large impact because of how much more environmentally friendly bicycles and scooters are compared to other modes of transportation. The use of 'smart racks' is already in use, making the implementation of this solution very feasible. An example of 'smart racks' in use in San Francisco are the bike racks in BART.

Sustainability Design Challenge Teams 2019

We propose labelling prepared food in the cafeteria with traffic light labels about carbon emissions to make student food choices more sustainable. We would like to put them up right after summer and winter break. Research by Verplanken and Roy (2016) suggests that students will be more receptive to changing their behavior based on new information after a major life change like moving. We therefore want to focus on the return from summer and winter breaks, when many students will be changing living circumstances entirely. We hypothesize that putting up cafeteria traffic light labels after breaks will make our food choices more sustainable and reduce our carbon footprint. We propose this intervention because food production and consumption are significant sources of carbon emissions. A survey we did of current USF students indicated that students would be more likely to eat more sustainably if they were given information and support to help make a change. Our results also demonstrate that students would be willing to eat less red meat and choose a vegan option if it was labeled. To create the signs communicating these things, we will get information about upcoming cooked meals from the cafeteria staff. Then we will approximate the weight of carbon dioxide produced by making the ingredients of each dish. We will compare the available entrees’ carbon scores, sort them into three evenly sized groups based on emissions level, and assign the meals in each group a red, amber, or green light accordingly. Our project will be relatively low in cost. It will take the time and energy of our team and of cafeteria workers who would need to share recipes and menus with us. It will also cost money to print and laminate the traffic light signs. However, we believe it will increase sustainable eating and thus improve student health and save the university money.

To be more sustainable on campus, the University of San Francisco (USF) should promote old and broken technology recycling, which is called e-waste. The importance of e-waste recycling is often times ignored because of the lack of knowledge that it can be done. By collecting all used or broken technology, it would not only limit what ends up in our landfills but these materials could also be reused or repaired. To promote and acknowledge the need for the recycling and reusing of technology products, USF needs to provide an outlet where students can recycle their e-waste. Recology is currently being used at USF for landfill, recycling, and compost pick up. There is already an e-waste pickup program at USF which occurs quarterly throughout the year, meaning that Recology would be able to pick up the e-waste recycled from our proposal. E-waste bins are in the process of being provided on campus in the residence halls to encourage electronic recycling, but the University of San Francisco should have an outlet for students to donate their old technology products to campus. USF could provide a room, potentially in the Fall 2020 engineering Innovation Hive, where larger electronic items, like TVs and microwaves, could be saved and reused for projects and inventory in USF departments such as engineering majors, art and architecture majors, computer science majors, etc. By collecting all used or broken technology, it would not only limit what ends up in our landfills but these materials would be reused for the students benefit. Our proposal is easily feasible and cost effective due to the fact that there is already a pick up system implemented for e-waste and reusing products promotes overall sustainability at a low cost.

There are four dorm buildings on USF campus that have more than 7 floors, averaging at about 500 student residents per building. Currently many residents enjoy the convenience of using elevators to get to where they want to go, many times just to go up a floor or two. According to our research, on average going up one floor takes about 5wh of energy (equivalent to charging your smartphone fully). In addition to the potential massive amount of saving in energy by taking the stairs as often as possible, there also comes the health benefits. Now that we have identified the problem, our plan is to deploy a mechanism to provide incentives and rewarding students for taking the stairs instead of elevators to get to where they need to go. And the way to do that is through gamification. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, and by encouraging desired behaviors, taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming. This technique can encourage people to perform chores they usually consider boring. It combines game-based mechanics, aesthetics, and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems. Now, imagine a scavenger hunt in stairway. We plan to install touch screen tablets in stairways where students can interact with by pressing a button to enter a sweepstake. Most of the times, they are not going to win anything. But once in a while, the entrant might win a free Amazon $5 gift- card, or free USF swag! We built this rewarding mechanism using operant conditioning, and the thrill and anticipation of winning a prize will divert traffic to stairways and therefore reduce elevator usage.

In addition to the sweepstake, we also include useful information at a glance on the tablet such as campus events, announcements and weather gadget. This provides incentives for students to take the stairs.

The quad garden will be a space for USF and its community to gather and give back. This space will be transformed into an open, interactive garden and communal area that not only provides food, but also encourages a sustainable mindset for future generations. The garden will take up the strip of grass between Harney and Gleeson library; we plan to build planter beds for growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs available for the community. In addition, there will also be a shaded patio space with benches and communal tables for events.   

The sustainable methods and uses of produce will demonstrate that urban agriculture is relevant to students of many disciplines. For example, education students could use the area to bring neighboring schools and educate them on healthy growing and eating habits. Secondly, architecture students can use the space to explore sustainable materials and methods. And environmental science students will be able to test soil nutrient levels for labs. The educational signage in the garden will also help to inform students on how to grow and harvest the produce, and bring attention to the design and growing methods.

We believe the quad garden can set a precedent for future expansion and neighboring universities. Many students at the University of San Francisco have little to no knowledge of our existing garden, we think that the main campus location allows for more opportunity to engage with the space and subsequently educate the USF body.

California was in a severe drought for about 8 years from 2011 to 2017 (“California”).
According the Sustainability coordinator of USF, Richard Hsu, The University of San Francisco used about 49.4 million gallons of water per year which is equivalent to 1 million, 16.9oz water bottles per day and specifically 6.6 million gallons for irrigation. Within the past California has dealt with severe water loss starting around 2000 and  started to increase in 2011 till 2019. Knowing about the droughts in the past can help us prove that implementing fog nets can help prepare USF for future purposes especially because USF has a lot of landscape and gardens that need water maintenance. Especially due to climate change, we aren’t sure if another drought can occur anytime soon. We would like to implement fog nets, an eco-friendly way to collect fog that can create a reliable source of water. Wind will carry fog through the nets th at will catch water that will drip down to a water reserve tank to be stored.
These Fog nets would need to be maintained. The nets need to be changed to ensure cleanliness of water. Water tanks would also need to be cleaned periodically. Students can be involved in this process. Various clubs and organizations involved could be (facilities, The Sustainability Club, and The Gardening club). In a study done by Astin, Sax, and Avalos, they looked at the long term affects of volunteering. They found that students that did volunteer work in college were more likely to do volunteer work after college graduation (Sax). This will not only provide short term benefits on students but also provide long term benefits as they continue these pro-enviromental behaviors past their time here at USF.
Though the University of San Francisco has made many innovative improvements in efforts to become more sustainable, they have not yet utilized one of the most major weather elements unique to San Francisco, fog.  Fog harvesting allows us to fully exploit the resources given in our environment and utilize it for our campus.  This would be a step towards improving our campus to become more sustainable for the future.  
 Other campuses have installed these fog nets. One of which being the University of South Africa and even California State University Monterey Bay (CITE). The “University of South Africa” installed,  “70m²”, and they produced, “3,800 liters a day” (Quezada).
Our prototype will be a relatively small fog net, 1.8 x 1.8meters, installed near our school’s garden or behind Lone Mountain.  In addition, the installation will not disrupt the environment because the structure and materials of the fog nets are environmentally friendly and safe for wildlife.  If successful, this can become a more visual and creative installation involving the student body and local Bay Area artists.  

The on-campus problem we are trying to diminish is lack of awareness about USF Shuttle Services. This leads to an increased reliance of students on personal transportation, especially ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, which use way up more resources than shared commute offered by the shuttle service. The current way of booking a USF shuttle is tedious by today’s standards and involves placing a phone call to public safety, telling them their current location and then waiting for the shuttle with a minimum wait time of 15-20 minute. To add to that, most grad students we interviewed about the shuttle service were not even aware of the service which could save them time walking to a distant bus stop, or better still, stop them from the urge of booking an Uber straight home. We will provide a simple app with the functionality of live tracking campus shuttles and booking a shuttle based on their current location. Since sustainability is but a byproduct of the proposal and not the primary purpose, we believe that we will be able to get most of the students registered on the app. We safely assume that the shuttle drivers have a smartphone that can have the app downloaded. Students want convenience first and that’s what we offer them. Since our team comprises only new grad students and they also don’t use shuttle services very often so we have not managed to acquire a lot of personal research or data from friends, but are trying to solve the problem as outsiders. However, we feel that with our collective years of experience in various fields, we have the skillset to thoroughly survey college students during the hackathon and collect actual data on the sentiment towards and usage of USF shuttles. Our proposal is simple and involves $0 recurring cost. The project should be funded to get our college to the level of severe other contemporary colleges that have shuttle apps, as well as because the project is feasible due to its restricted functionality and that it incurs no recurring cost. Maintenance of the app is required but it is not a deal breaker considering the number of colleges offering such apps and ITS team ready to maintain it if required. The project is high benefits and low cost, and serves the environment greatly. The strongest point that works in the favor of HackeyBois is that our idea is based in reality. We do not want to be an idea that is chosen as a winner and then not implemented - we want to work hard to get this idea up and running. The proposal is feasible, tried and tested by other students that have made similar projects and is one that will complement USF’s policy towards sustainability perfectly.

USF can cut down on contamination fees and better provide environmental awareness by providing eco-friendly and sustainability education during first year orientation. This can be done with a student-led presentation and interactive activity at the end to reinstall a sustainable mindset. This will, in turn, promote sustainability awareness and help students navigate how to get rid of waste in an eco-friendly manner.

For this years sustainability design challenge I have come up with two ideas to help make our campus more environmentally sustainable. The first idea is to educate incoming freshmen and transfer students about the issue of food waste and how much food we are wasting as a college campus. This seminar will develop their understanding of the issue and will hopefully inspire them to make a change. During this seminar ideas will be presented on how we can decrease our food waste, the first is to restrain yourself from buying too much food. There are a lot of options in the cafeteria but that does not mean you have to get all of them, take what you can finish or go back for seconds if you are still hungry. My second idea is for the workers of Bon Appetit to calculate a rough estimate of how much food is being consumed every day. By doing this we can limit the food being made so we don’t have an abundant amount at the end of the day being thrown away. These little changes can decrease our universities food waste and it also saves money. Bon Appetit advertises that they use fresh produce, but 30-40% of it is being wasted every day. This is why I produced these ideas to lessen our campus’ food waste and to help us become more environmentally sustainable.

We plan to make the cafeteria more convenient by creating a digital interface between students and the cafeteria. This will make it easier for students to control their diet, reduce the waste they produce, and promote environmental protection all while improving the efficiency of the cafeteria.

The cafeteria is an indispensable part of campus daily life. However, as students, we still see some areas that could be improved. For instance, the lines are often long and the ingredients and recipes of the meals offered are often vague. In addition, international students are also unsure how to classify waste due to the cultural differences. To solve this issue, we have designed a mobile app since as well-designed app is something convenient and manageable for students and staff alike. Specifically, the app will have three main features: Users can order and manage their meals with the press of a button, meal information and ingredients can be viewed instantly, and the waste classification of each item can be explained in the app.

Besides the key features of the app, discounts and games can also be included to further entice students to use it. We want the app to be familiar and intuitive to students, so the user interface will be designed to mimic other popular apps. We envision that the main cost of this project will come from the art and interface design, as well as the web server. There will also need to be changes in the cafeteria to allow for the addition of online ordering and pick up, but these costs would be relatively minimal.

In contrast, the potential savings and earnings of such an app are significant. This would increase the efficiency of the cafeteria, make it more convenient for students to use, and reduce the occupancy overload of the cafeteria during peak hours. In addition, our own polling of the student body across all major demographics suggests that students are very interested in such an app. 

Sustainability Design Challenge Teams 2018

The problem that we are trying to assess is the large use of bottled water in USF. Bottled water costs 2000 times more than tap water. In addition to being costlier bottled water’s taste deteriorates and there are various health risks to consuming bottled water (United States Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2017a). Not only might one be hurting one’s pocket, enjoyment and health, buying bottled water contributes to ocean debris as well as being the one of the top three trash item found during Coastal CleanUp Day, with 988,965 plastic bottles collected (Ocean Conservancy, 2018a). Choice architecture dictates that design can affect behavior. Cafeterias are a common place in which choice architecture is applied usually to promote healthy eating by for example placing healthy food in hard to reach places or inconvenient places. Our idea is to use choice architecture to decentivize the purchase of bottled water in the USF cafeteria by placing bottled water in harder to reach places and spots. As part of the young new field of behavioral economics, choice architecture is a strategy that is used in many scandinavian cafeterias and other progressive places. This is an idea that is truly revolutionary in that it is so multidisciplinary.  
In addition a survey was conducted at the University of San Francisco to find out the extent to which choice architecture could affect the behavior in the cafeteria with the goal of decreasing the use of bottled waters to help the environment. We created a logo to help the recognition of water fountains and water dispensers already provided to students. We also came up with the idea to add on the location of water fountains to an existing map on the USF website that shows the places where bike racks, LED light  and disabled-friendly facilities are available. Our project costs $0. Yes, NO COSTS, and it can be implemented as fast as in an hour! With the cost being none, even the slightest effects will outweigh the cost. The effects of choice architecture successfully changing consumer behavior is well supported by empirical data.

One of the biggest problems is food insecurity. Nationally 36% of university students are food insecure. Here at USF 2,500 people live on campus, and on average have 400 dollars excess on their meal plans at the end of each semester. Our focus is on social sustainability, especially enhanced livability. If people's basic needs are met they will be able to have more opportunities to better themselves as well as their communities. Unused flexi tends to lead to less environmentally friendly decisions and with this we could reduce food waste in the cafeteria as well as bringing people to a place where composting and recycling are more accessible. We have a solution to these excess funds as well as food insecurity, Plate.  Plate is a fully designed fully functional app that incentives users to donate unused flexi to those who need help. This allows us to give food to those who need it while reducing waste, we are also creating a sustainable community where students aren't worried about their basic needs. This app is absolutely free, there is no cost associated with it. We can easily grow beyond our campus to make our entire nation more sustainable. 

Our team created a survey to find out USF student’s current attitudes and beliefs around sustainability, and found that students guide and encourage their peers to lead more sustainable behaviors such as recycling, taking shorter showers, etc. however, our data also revealed that students feel that they do not have sufficient knowledge on the subject and therefore aren’t confident in leading peers. Students also reported that they felt USF needed to promote education and awareness regarding sustainability. We then asked how they preferred this education to be facilitated, and a significant majority chose via a mobile application. So, we built a prototype for a mobile application that functions on a basic level. Our idea is for an interactive trivia game that includes trivia questions centered around environmental science, USF’s use/waste statistics, etc. Students will be able to compete against one another, or even against faculty! We have included a feature that allows students to create questions that will then be approved (or not) by students/professors in the Environmental Studies. Furthermore, we have been discussing rewards that will include possible internship opportunities at Hienrich Boll Stiftung, opportunities to attend conferences (provided by connections through the Sustainability Office at USF), and possible extra credit/day late passes given on a one-to-one basis depending on the professor. Our idea does not require funding, but it will require labor to maintain the mobile application and also to monitor and vet questions. We propose that this duty can be taken care of by students in the Environmental Studies department, or an environmental club on campus. 

Don’s place is an online marketplace that encourages sustainability by allowing students to recycle items that they no longer need. The problem we have on campus is the amount of items students throw away throughout and at the end of the semester. Students resort to dumping unwanted reusable items which end up in landfills because of convenience. Another issue is that there is an excessive use of posters, which creates a high amount of paper waste. In addition to that, many students use delivery services, such as Amazon Prime, which creates even more paper waste and an unneeded release of emissions. Don’s Place provides a solution to these problems by allowing students to list their items for sale to earn extra income. Students can also refer to a section on Don’s place for getting rid of unwanted items by giving it to other students for free. This idea of ecommerce and recycling would motivate students to come onto the platform to potentially earn extra income. For example, if a student at the end of the year wants to get rid of a refrigerator, he/she has the option to sell it to another student rather than just throwing it away. The platform can also provide a space where campus organizations can advertise their events electronically and decrease paper consumption on campus. Most importantly, Don’s Place creates a safe environment because it is exclusive to USF students. Websites, such as Craigslist or eBay are full of strangers that can scam students or harm students during transaction meetings. With Don’s Place, we create less waste, secure transactions, and change the discussion around sustainability at USF. 

For our project we created an app called Venture. This app will help USF students that are new to the San Francisco area. This app will help students get around the city by using public transportation. A lot of students that are new to the area tend to use Uber or Lyft because when using public transportation it can be a little confusing. For USF students they already have a MUNI bus pass so they will be saving money when they use public transportation. A survey was conducted to see whether USF students use public transportation. The results came back that a lot of students don’t use public transportation because they are not comfortable with using it. The results also showed that students want to be more ecological and the best way they can do that is by using public transportation. The app will help students adventure and explore the city that they are living in. Venture focuses on demystifying the city by introducing students to the neighborhood around San Francisco. From the app, a student can discover what is going on in a neighborhood (restaurants, bars, concert halls, parks, and events) and be able to navigate to those events by using public transportation. In addition, you can then share your travel plans with your friends so they can tag along. The application allows students to share their plans with friends through text and calendar. The app also features tours for students to venture around the city and discover the great city San Francisco. Traveling with friends makes students more likely to use public transport. When friends travel together they feel more safe. This benefits the city and USF students in many ways such as saving money, reducing traffic in and around USF as well as in the city which leads to better air quality. 

We have created an intervention that aims to encourage users to save water by changing their water consumption habits through interaction with a gamified educational app. It is expected that a change in water consumption behavior will begin to occur when underlying psychological beliefs are altered through a combination of motivational and persuasive strategies within the app. If we reduce water consumption, it would help our University to reduce the spending on water utilities. It will also promote students to cultivate waste-conscious habits that will contribute to the global effort to reduce wasting water. Since USF is a large infrastructure and community within San Francisco, reducing our water consumption would positively impact the city as a whole. 

Our project takes aim that the large amount of cigarette butts that currently lie on our campus. People regularly discard the waste from their smoking habits on our campus' sidewalks without considering the environmental consequences. We feel that there are more efficient methods of disposing of these loose ends. Although the university has created efforts of picking up these butts, our community still faces significant challenges. To detect the cigarette butts, we will need to create a detection system within the specialized trash can. To detect a cigarette butt, we have thought of 2 factors, color and size, to differentiate. Using the general color differentiation of a cigarette butt, orange and white, we could create an algorithm which would detect these certain colors. There are devices, such as camera modules, which could perform both of detecting the size and color for low prices. We are planning to have a “points” based rewards system, where every person will get a benefit based on the amount of buds they place into our specially designed 
bins. The application will be part of the myUSF app. We will incorporate the existing database of students and QR scanner in the application. Our team seeks to create an incentivized system of recycling. We will give a student a QR code which will be stuck outside the trash can, where they could scan and claim the points. For each cigarette butt thrown away, 8 cents will be given to the student. We aim to establish a partnership with USF bookstore. We feel this would be a good reward for the student and promotion and ethical image for the bookstore. A final points given for each cigarette can be finalized with the bookstore later.

Everywhere we turn, our lives are becoming more and more digital. Digital billboards, mobile phones, smart watches, and virtual reality are becoming our reality as we transition from traditional marketing and advertising into digital methods.  But what are the advantages of digital marketing over traditional methods? Seven important points to consider are: customer experience, competitive advantage, increased visibility, brand awareness, return on investment, interactivity, and reduced waste. Each of these factors are significantly increased and heightened when digital marketing is utilized to achieve a specific result. Digital signage is a form of communication that allows brands to make their content available in targeted locations, marketing towards specific customers.

Most people who live in San Francisco, must have a memory of being jammed in the middle of a street, or driving a mile in 10 minutes, or spending half an hour looking for a parking spot or something like those scenarios. The heavy traffic, the heavy usage of vehicles not only contributes carbon emissions, but also brings great inconvenience to daily lives. A common and efficient solution is carpool. There are a lot of carpool policies in U.S., in California, in San Francisco, and in our campus. There are carpool lanes, there are as well as carpool permits. They are 
working very well. But there is always a wondering for any artifact, that is “Can it be better?” It can be, especially in our campus. We mainly focus on 2 disadvantages: Currently the carpool usually requires at least 2 persons per vehicle. But even a sedan can usually have 5 persons usually. And not everyone has the motivation to fully fill his/her vehicle when he/she has already met the carpool requirement. So right there we find a gap which is possible to be filled. The safety issue and the awkward silence around strangers also could be obstacles for looking for carpool partners. As an example, Uber has a feature called Uber pool. We have saw the convince and we also have seen that so many problems happened to Uber. Most of them are safety related.  Based on the points aforementioned, here we present our solution to reinforce the existed carpool solution by eliminating information silos and bringing safety and social communication, eventually we can change the behavioral pattern of students and faculties to support sustainability and build up a better world. 

The primary source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States is transportation, which is nearly 28.5 percent. Students often choose to drive from or to campus by themselves because they do not feel comfortable taking an UBER or public transportation. With this app, students would be able to choose sustainable transportation and also be comfortable since the riders and drivers are familiar faces. This app is not only for the USF environment but also for the USF community as a whole. USFPool is a convenient app which will link USF students who are heading in the same destination. Students can use the app by signing up and providing their personal information (e.g. full name, student id, debit/credit card). Those who sign up will be able to sign up as either the carpooler or the driver. As a student carpooler, they will provide their destination they are headed to and the app will link them to their fellow peer drivers. As a student driver, they will also provide their destination they are headed to and the app will link them to their fellow peer carpoolers.  After successfully completing your profile, you will be able to start carpooling! 

By the time most students finish their first year of college, they learn to become money crunchers, trying to stretch every last penny into the next week. For those who are learning to live on their own for the first time, this can become a long and hard lesson learned through trial and error. At USF, 79% of students live off campus, meaning most students after their first year are providing food for themselves.  As students who are busy with school, we often forget the little things. With little time on our hands, we grab whatever is in front of us in the fridge and forget about everything else inside. When the weekends come along, that’s when you remember the rotting lettuce in the back of the fridge or the expired gallon of milk. You throw out the lettuce. You pour out the milk. The immediate feeling of guilt washes upon you as you’ve just wasted food and money. Our team experienced this personally, and wanted to know if other college students were feeling the same, so we distributed a survey. The results of our survey showed that there was a positive correlation between the frequency of shopping and spending habits. Approximately 93% of the participants admitted to feeling guilty when throwing out unused produce, as it also meant that they were wasting money as well. 71%  of the participants also agreed that they tend to forget what’s in the fridge, reassuring the idea that most people need reminders to consume the produce in their fridge before expiration.  Overall, a majority of students reported that money is the first and foremost factor that plays into decreasing food waste behavior, because not only does it bring mindfulness to being more resourceful, but that they are responsible for the expired food. A fair amount of students reported that not wasting food was in their upbringings, while others were aware of how poorer areas need more food.   From these results, we decided to do research globally on food waste and sustainable behavior. We found that on average, the individual American wastes $1500 dollars a year throwing out unused groceries. This means every month, at least one full bag of groceries is thrown into the trash can. When looking at food waste on a large scale, Americans waste approximately $218 billion dollars on thrown out, expired produce. If we took 30 percent of this waste and used it properly before expiration, we could feed 46 million Americans facing poverty today. When taking matters into a global scale, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted, with approximately 45 trillion gallons of freshwater used to farm produce. While produce is the largest factor in terms of using up water, it also is the first to expire and rot in the fridge. By using our My Fridge app, we want to send simple reminders to students to use up their groceries. They will be able to log their grocery purchases, track progress, and see how other USF students are doing. Eventually, this app will be implemented on other college campuses, so sustainable behavior will be prominent around the United States. The app will also suggest local discounts at grocery stores and resources to learn compost behavior and why we should use it. Overall, we want to teach students how to go through the entire life cycle of sustainable behavior and bring USF together, one fridge at a time. 

Sustainability Design Challenge Teams 2017

There are thousands of pounds of food being wasted in the average restaurant, and USF cafeteria serving 1500 meals a day, there is even a higher amount of food being wasted. There are about 7 and a half thousand homeless in San Francisco who have become accustomed to hunger. Instead of sending delicious food to the landfill, our solution would be solving two problems: wasting food and hunger. Our solution, we have students participate in a class very similar to urban community garden outreach, where they meet once a week and proactively reach out to the community. This class would help to incentivize students using volunteering hours and address the schedule system so that students are consistently serving the platform.

Pedal Power will harness the human power provided by the students pedaling on the bikes of the Koret Center at USF. Our cheap setup will generate electricity and save on energy costs and carbon emissions.

Due to many students, faculty and staff experiencing limited parking on campus our team proposes and app idea that will enable students and the rest of USF community to carpool to campus together. Thus eliminating stress and lost time looking for parking. Our app will encourage students to quickly log in and connect with other riders near the area they are located at. Once connected the main driver (student driver) will collect the corresponding amount of money through 
the app then transferred to their pertaining bank accounts to fund gas and time. Similar to Uber and Waze our app will function uniquely for USF community enabling students to register as riders or drivers. Through this idea we can reach our objective of becoming more sustainable when it comes to transporting to campus while at the same time given the opportunity to make extra cash. Our team concludes that this can be a double benefit for USF campus and students as we are looking for ways to become more sustainable with our parking situation. Furthermore we would also like to reach out to the students that commute long distances and connect them through our app that way commuting can become an easier experience

On average our cafeteria goes through 5,000 transactions a day. Many of these transactions are food taken to-go in compostable containers. But are these containers really sustainable? 
 We are proposing to implement a reusable container system to replace the compostable containers. Reusable containers use far less energy and resources over their life cycles in comparison to disposable ones. One-time use compostable containers are not only wasteful from an environmental standpoint, but come with health hazards associated with the production process that harnesses fertilizers and pesticides.  
The cost of buying compostable containers per school year (estimated at $26,000) far outweighs the cost of a one-time purchase of the proposed bento boxes (estimated at $50,000) which have a life span of two to three years.  
Reusable containers given to freshmen students through the GIFT fund will be used to take food from the cafeteria through a checkout system implementing barcode technology. After use, the student will return the container to a station in the cafeteria where it will be checked back in and washed. If the student chooses to take food to-go again, they will be able to check out another container.  
This process would bring awareness to students on the importance of reusing over composting in terms of energy consumption. This practical and cost-effective initiative would be beneficial in reducing USF's carbon footprint to benefit future generations! 

The current lighting system in the USF dorms is incredibly wasteful.  
Because students are not personally responsible for the utilities in their room, they have no incentive to conserve lighting energy. This is wasteful to USF’s budget, contributes unnecessarily to USF’s carbon footprint, and teaches students to be irresponsible with resources.  
A simple solution to this problem is to make it impossible for students to leave the lights on when they leave the room.  
A card activated lighting system will accomplish this goal. Students will place their One Card in the cardholder when they enter the room which will allow the lights to be turned on and when they leave they take their card with them, turning off the lights and saving energy.  
This card system is relatively inexpensive to implement and the money saved will pay back the implementation cost within two to eight years. However, before the system pays for itself, it will be funded by a Kickstarter campaign. 
An Outdoor Sustainability Event will take place on campus before the Kickstarter to raise awareness. The Outdoor Sustainability event will take place annually to fund future sustainability projects and continue to raise awareness for the need for sustainability on campus.  
The One Card activated lighting system will save USF thousands of dollars every year while also reducing the college’s carbon footprint. The system is easy and relatively cheap to implement and is convenient to use. 
This system will also teach the students of USF to be more responsible with their resources, a skill they will take beyond USF to become more environmentally conscious throughout their life. 

The University of San Francisco generated over 470 tons of waste in the last fiscal year.  
The Plate team aims to change this problem using two apps. Plate is an application that enables students to share their meal plan (flexi) with other students,  
At USF our designated meal plan is flexi – debit card system – with the caveat that all unused funds vanish at the end of the school year. With the push of a button, these vanishing funds can be put to better use, while also being converted into cash value. Plate introduces really great technologies.  
What makes all of this relevant? We’ve also been working on another feature that integrates into Plate. Throughout the course of the school year, students accumulate a lot of junk. In the cafeteria, there’s always a chart at the garbage cans that tells you what goes where.  
In real life, things aren’t so clean and easy. We wanted to create a solution that was smart, complex, and yet incredibly intuitive. Made even more accessible by its integration with the Plate platform. And we’re calling it waste reduction engine, AKA WRE. Making it easier for you to recycle.  
This is a machine learning model, instead of being a database full of images, this is a brain – specially made to recognize images. Here at Plate, we weren’t satisfied with just implementing one machine learning model, so we implemented 5. Each of these works differently - so in case any of these give you trouble, you have 4 other brains to choose from.  Plate is available on the app store, and WRE is available on GitHub today.   

The goal of Solar Vision is to increase student involvement and hold USF accountable in achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Solar Vision will achieve this in a 3-step plan: create a lucid dashboard to showcase on existing TV panels located within the several buildings on-campus (Lo Schiavo, Kalmanovitz, UC) for students to view; generate a concurrent survey to further interaction among students with the dashboard; and generate revenue through the surveys by placing advertisements on the web page and creating a donate button as well. In addition, the incentive for students to take these surveys would be Dons Dollars for every survey they take. Moreover, for every Dons Dollar a student earns USF will match it and put x-amount of dollars into the solar fund as well. With these steps, Solar Vision will be able to increase awareness among the student body about USF’s solar power and plans and generate revenue to fund these plans.

There are approximately 1,000 dorm rooms at USF (an average of 90 rooms in Pedro Arrupe, an average of 229 rooms in Toler, an average of 83 rooms in Fromm, an average of 167 rooms in Gillson, an average of 167 rooms in Hayes, and an average of 125 rooms in LoMo). According to the website Apartment Ratings, the monthly bill for a one bedroom apartment is typically $73. This means that USF’s monthly electricity bill is approximately $73,000 and that USF’s annual electricity bill is approximately $657,000.   
According to a study performed by the Natural Resources Defense Council regarding Northern California, about a quarter of all residential energy consumption is used on devices in idle power mode. “Idle power mode, or standby power, is defined as electricity used by appliances/equipment while they are switched off or not performing their primary function” (Standby Power- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). Standby power is caused by circuits that continue to be energized when the device is powered “off.” If USF were to conserve the idle power mode energy, we could save $164,250 per year… which means we could be saving $1.6 million over a ten year period.  
Our solution involves a wireless outlet to collect data on the amount of energy being used, as well as a web and mobile application to view one’s personal energy utilization. The hardware device is built from a modified “Kill a Watt” monitor (a device that already can measure energy flow), and an XBee wireless adapter to allow the data collected to be transmitted to a backend database. This gives USF, or any other user, full access to all of the data collected. We envision installing these devices in the dorms at USF. The data collected from the individual rooms would then be displayed so that students could compare their energy usage with each other. This would create social pressure and act as an incentive to practice sustainable habits. 

In the coming century, precipitous climate change will greatly impact global food and freshwater security concerns. In California, recent years of drought exacerbated by depleted water tables caused a loss of 102 million trees. Municipal governments sought to mitigate water consumption, but the agricultural industry went largely unchecked, despite the fact that approximately 80% of 
all freshwater use in the United States goes to agriculture. There is no getting around our need for food, but recent advances have brought about opportunities for a paradigm shift in how we produce food and have yet to be significantly tapped into by California’s behemoth agricultural industry.  
USF, which sources much of its food via Bon Appetit from farms that employ antiquated water management techniques, and which has recently acquired Star Route Farms, now has the opportunity to significantly reduce the water consumption demands of our produce, reduce the distance that food has to travel, and arm students with the skills needed to lead at the forefront of that paradigm shift. Our team proposes USF should leverage its resources at Star Route Farms to implement a medium-scale greenhouse that hosts an aquaponics system capable of using only 12.5% of the water demanded by conventional practices, scaled to produce leafy vegetables and fish to service campus dining facilities’ needs. In addition to reducing USF’s net water usage, these systems placed here would also reduce transportation of all leafy vegetables by 71.5 miles, and afford our urban agriculture students opportunities to study, interact with, and improve upon modern production techniques. 
 USF should also implement a smaller-scale vertical aquaponics system for the production of herbs in one of several on-campus locations identified by our team to demonstrate the feasibility of these systems within the urban landscape, provide local, day-to-day educational opportunities for relevant curricula, and engage students of all programs on sourcing food. With these systems, USF could prepare students to meet the challenges of the future. 

The USF Bike team wants to be able to offer a resource to students that is not currently available. When students want to travel a distance deemed too far to walk, they either take the bus or a Lyft. Most of the time, in both cases, those vehicles are running on fossil fuels, a limited resource. The USF bike team strives to make the campus more bike-friendly in order to promote cleaner transportation.