Edible Innovations: Hacking for More Sustainable Schools

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Edible Innovations: Hacking for More Sustainable Schools

From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Future Food Institute — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.

CentriSeed Innovations provides sustainable solutions to communities both local and abroad, and develops student’s professional skills. For one of their activities, the group developed a bike generator. The goal of the project was to demonstrate the conversion of mechanical energy to electrical, and to model the Restorative Floating Garden that features floating plants that fight algal blooms.

This was just one of the projects that the group of students have been working on. But there is much more behind CentriSeed Innovations. I spoke directly with the young team to learn more about their work.

Can you give me an overview about your work at CentriSeed Innovations?

CentriSeed Innovations is an organization at Stony Brook University and our goal is to find sustainable solutions to problems around campus. Problems could be anything, from trying to reduce the plastic waste on campus to generating floating gardens or eliminating algae in the water.

How did everything get started?

Over two and a half years ago, the head of the chapter of Engineers Without Borders at our school decided that they needed a revamp because they didn’t have the interest from the student body they wanted and they didn’t have resources from faculty. They interviewed people to start a new chapter.

We decided to actually take a different route. We took the model of Engineers Without Borders and completely mixed it up into a new model. Students come with the projects, they implements themselves, and they can use faculty and professors for advising. That was really what we came up with, and now we have as many as 3000 members and six running projects at the moment.

Can you share some examples of the projects?

An example is a bike generator that we produced for the office of sustainability on campus. Basically, they wanted us to make some interactive display equipment that people could use to really understand energy. So, for example, something conveying how much power it would take while riding a bike to power a fluorescent light bulb compared to an LCD one.

Another example was when the university was having trouble with algae blooms in ponds. There was a lot of runoff that’s eroding all the banks of the pond and it doesn’t look good. We went and planted 10 garden beds around the pond. We invented a new environmentally friendly floating island made of plastic mesh. However, the plastic started leaching into the water. So we decided to go into a different direction and try to make an island that’s completely environmentally friendly. This new island has a body that is made out of cork, and we used bamboo as a barrier to frame it.

Another really interesting example was related to food waste reduction. We are replacing all plastic utensils and tableware on campus with compostables. We compost these utensils and plates after students use them and put them in our composting system. Once the compost is created, we’ll use the fertilizer in our gardens on campus.

So, do you have gardens on campus as well?

Yes! There are some gardens throughout the campus with plants, bushes, fruits, and flowers. We need fertilizer for all of them. So we use out compost that’s very nutrient rich!

Do you plan to make what you have been doing so far available for others?

We are about to release the island design and instructions. We want to make this project open source as it has the potential to be really impactful. Looking forward to it!

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Chiara is fascinated by food as a means to impact bodies, minds, and environment. She has studied international business in three different countries, and is an alumni of the Food Innovation Program and US Director at the Future Food Institute.

Based in California, she is also a Research Scholar at Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, working on building the first comprehensive Internet of Food to enable food care through food systems semantics. She is a selected member of Barilla Center Food Nutrition Foundation, a Research Affiliate at Institute For The Future, Board Member at Maker Faire and selected member of the Global Shapers, a young global network of innovators promoted by the World Economic Forum.

She is passionate about social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and aims to leave her mark on society.

View more articles by Chiara Cecchini


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