TU Yunwen Design
Eat My Way through Design

In the Balance - Food Carbon footprints

In the Balance - Food X CO2

How did we engage people to learn about the abstract idea of carbon footprint?

This project includes two interactive installations: In the Balance and On the Menu, in collaboration with The Perennial restaurant, John Wegner, Weichung Joong, Sida Li and Asian Art Museum. The design purpose is to engage people to learn about the very different carbon-dioxide consumptions of 10 most common ingredients while playing with the pieces. 

The installations were displayed at Asian Art Museum, Chinese Culture Center, FoodInno Symposium, California Academy of Science and BlackRock SF. 

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Most criteria for food is about flavor, price and health. However, I believe we are entering an era that considers what environmental impact comes from the food we eat everyday. 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions are mostly coming from agriculture, and various categories of food emit considerably different CO2. We designed and fabricated these installations to find an efficient and playful way to help people understand the idea. It provides a suggestion about adjusting the daily diet in a feasible way. 


In the Balance

This installation includes a human-size scale and over 200 cubes that represent 10 main ingredients in our diet. The weight of each cube represents the actual weight of the carbon dioxide emission of each ingredient in the same weight. For example, 2 ounces of beef is 72 times heavier than 2 ounces of tomatoes. 

The audience can immediately feel the weight difference. They are also encouraged to put their "meal" on one side of the scale, and try balancing it with alternative ingredients on another side. 


On the Menu

This installation reverses the calculation between food and CO2. Each plate has an ingredient in different volume, which can be traded for the same value of CO2 at the same menu price. 

The table is rotatable with a Lazy Susan attached below. 5 plates are covered with black caps, which encourages the audience to unveil the dramatically small or large amount of food inside. The audience can have a good sense of the difference through the visual experience. 


Demonstration at San Francisco Asian Art Museum 


The project has been iterated by California Academy of Science in San Francisco as Carbon Cafe. You can find out it every Thursday night at the Planet Vision session. 

Shots at Cal Academy of Science. 

Shots at Cal Academy of Science. 

Design Process