How can we repurpose waste into a purposeful product for a sustainable future?

Design Realm
Sustainable Design
Product Design
System Design


Wafo is a system design project that starts with picking up waste materials from local business owners and redesigning and using them to create service systems that help the businesses grow.

Wafo: Turn your waste into food!
It is a sustainable design agency that buys recyclable and non-recyclable waste from local businesses and repurposes it into a product line. It aims to help local businesses and give waste a new life.

How does Wafo works?

The production process will be key to helping local businesses that need support sell their unused materials. Wafo will analyze the possible use of these waste materials and quote reasonable prices.

Take St. Lawrence Market, for example. I went material hunting and interviewed different vendors about their business. After sourcing, I obtained fish scales from Domenic’s Fish, wine corks from Wine Country Merchants, and some coffee grounds from Everyday Gourmet. One of the very important insights I received from a vendor during the field research was that the layout of St. Lawrence Market made his business almost invisible to visitors.

Given waste a second life

While ideating ways to use all the biodegradable materials I received, I hit upon the idea of making the fish scales, coffee grounds, corks, and succulent seeds into a finger ring that can be used to grow succulents that we have named ‘Bub’.

Bub: Pet your plants!

In the city, we have all distanced ourselves from nature. This disconnection creates a gap that prevents us from reconnecting with the environment. The idea is to revive the connection between humans and plants. Instead of being a static green living thing, the ring allows people to carry their plants around. Users are required to be dedicated in taking care of the plants. This can help create a meaningful connection between plant and owner. Like feeding a pet, how about petting a plant?

While planting Bub, the user is required to wear the ring on their non-dominant hand. They will have to remove it during showers and while sleeping. When Bub starts growing small sprouts, it needs to be planted into a pot.

Bub: The Product Prototype

Bud comes with an instruction sheet that states the origin of the material will be available with the product, along with a map. This will allow users to go on a treasure hunt and visit the vendor they are interested in.

Why Surprise Theory?

The consumers will not know what shape of Bud they will receive, which vendor has participated with Wafo. Considering the surprise theory from the perspective of cognitive science, the moment of the surprise will astonish the customers. Instead of forcing an individual into passive learning, it acts as a trigger to make the individuals active and engage themselves in learning and experiencing. Wafo not only wants the customers to engage with our product but connect them back to the local business.

Bub: Process

Here are some images of the functional prototype. Coffee grounds, fish scales, and succulent seeds are bound with biodegradable natural adhesives and molded with silicone. The whole process requires only biodegradable ingredients that could turn into nutrients for the succulents.

1. “ 'Surprise!’, Meinzer, K.,, 2 April, 2015.