How can we use play to affect a positive behavioral change?
For this assignment, we surveyed our peers to learn about their recycling habits. Do they recycle, and if so, where? Do they know which materials can and cannot be recycled? Does waste generation factor into their purchasing habits? Our research highlighted three main obstacles facing the Rhode Island recycling program: lack of awareness about how to recycle properly, lack of understanding about how the recycling process works, and the human tendency to opt for personal convenience over communal good. 
Our solution to making this knowledge-transfer engaging — and to bring to life the trade-offs inherent in waste generation — was to conceal them within the mechanisms of a board game.
Throughout the game, players accumulate waste by frequenting locations in Providence (e.g. coffee shops, grocery stores, etc.) and work to amass recycling “process” cards that allow them to convert their waste into new materials. Players are rewarded for acting in an environmentally responsible fashion, answering trivia correctly, creatively re-using waste, and amassing recycled materials. The game teaches players the nuts and bolts of how to recycle properly in Rhode Island, but it also helps to recontextualize their daily lives in terms of waste accumulation.
This game was designed for a highly specific user (a RISD student), but the template could easily be translated for other site-specific locations and refined for audiences of different ages.

Role: designer, fabricator
Co-creator: Luona Cai

Process: early iterations.

Players accumulate waste cards throughout the game. These are coded depending on their material (metal, plastic, glass, paper) and can be recycled into new product cards.

Left: user testing. Right: the final board.

Left: at most spots on the board, players must either draw an action card or a trivia card. Action cards are good or bad for the player, depending on the nature of the behavior described. Trivia cards contain helpful, lesser-known facts about recycling. Right: players work to accumulate recycling process cards. Once they have a complete set of a material (e.g. metal), they may recycle any waste of that kind.

The box was made from recycled cardboard (of course).


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