Project Origins

What began as a way to get new cohort members in the Innovation Diploma into the mindset of Design Thinking, has become something I believe will be much longer than just a simple design challenge.


At first, we were given a picture of the abandoned garden box behind school after a member of the cohort had discovered it and put it onto the observation blog. We went over there, looked at it, and wondered what we could do about it. Many of us had the simple idea to get it started again, but we knew that wasn’t really the answer. We weren’t even sure if the garden was even the problem. Through interviews and observations we discovered that the original goal of the garden was to get students involved in environmental sustainability at the school, but it didn’t do it’s job very well.

We established our ‘How might we’ as,

“How might we make sustainability part of our DNA here at Mount Vernon?”

We then interviewed students, faculty, and custodial staff about ways we are and ways people wish we could be more sustainable. We came up with lots of ideas, but what we discovered through observations was that the Middle School did not even have recycling bins because they took up too much space, were not aesthetically pleasing, and the custodial staff just ended up putting everything together anyway because students didn’t have enough knowledge about recycling.

So we got to it, figuring out a way to help the middle school recycle.


Our first prototype is a two level structure with recycling on top for easier access, and trash, or “landfill” on the bottom. By renaming trash to “landfill”, it helps people understand more where their waste is going. As well, with the recycling being more at eye level, it makes people more conscious of how they are using the bin.

We have named our new system the RISE Sustainability System and are currently embarking on professional product development process.

For more updates and information on tests and future prototypes continue to read more posts as my team and I continue with this challenge.