Well Being

Green Boarding

13. September 2019

Leading design studio PriestmanGoode has opened ‘Get Onboard: Reduce. Reuse. Rethink’ at the Design Museum in London

“While there is currently no perfect solution, this design proposal aims to encourage suppliers and airlines to rethink the meal service in a more eco-friendly manner..."

The exhibition explores ways that we can use design thinking and material innovation to address the vast issue of waste in travel, and affect the supply of products and services, as well as encourage passenger behaviour change. The exhibition is the result of an internal R&D project by the London and China based design studio, which specialises in travel and transport design. It is the studio’s latest in a series of concepts that raise awareness and encourage public discourse of important societal and environmental issues. Aviation design is a core area of work for PriestmanGoode, who have collaborated with some of the world’s best airlines on cabin interiors and innovative seating concepts. For this exhibition, the studio has focused on the service elements of the travel journey, rather than the seats or indeed the architecture of the aircraft. ‘Get Onboard: Reduce. Reuse. Rethink’ is divided into four areas, each addressing an element of the travel service. While the exhibition focuses on air travel, these ideas can extend across the travel industry and equally apply to the provision of products and services across all modes of transport. RETHINKING THE MEAL TRAY: The key area of focus for the exhibition is the meal service.  The driving factors here were to reduce weight – a key factor in aviation design – and minimise waste. In an bid to reduce the vast amounts of single use plastic that come with meal deliveries – which average an estimated 500g per person per long haul flight –  PriestmanGoode has explored a vast range of food safe materials that have been developed for the catering industry, from cups made from coffee grounds, to algae, bamboo and rice husk. PriestmanGoode has selected some of these materials to re-imagine what the meal tray could look like, using edible, biodegradable and commercially compostable materials. The idea is to eliminate plastic waste, and to replace like for like. Elements that are currently rotable (washed and reused), like the tray itself, would continue to be so, and elements that are discarded, like single use plastic, would be replaced with a sustainable alternative. Materials were also chosen to reflect the contents of the food within eg. Side salads would feature a banana leaf or algae lid. Jo Rowan, Associate Strategy Director at PriestmanGoode explains: “While there is currently no perfect solution, this design proposal aims to encourage suppliers and airlines to rethink the meal service in a more eco-friendly manner, particularly ahead of legislation to ban single use plastic, which in some countries is proposed for as early as 2021”. PriestmanGoode’s streamlined tray is made from a skeletal frame and composed of the following materials:

  • Tray – coffee ground and husks mixed with lignin binder (rotable)
  • Base dishes – wheat bran (rotable)
  • Side dish lid – algae or banana leaf
  • Dessert lid – wafer
  • Spork – coconut wood (rotable)
  • Capsules (sauces, milk) – soluble seaweed
  • Cup outer – rice husk with PLA binder (rotable)
  • Cup liner – algae
  • Hot main meal lid – bamboo
  • The main meal lid has been designed to stock all waste items and close into a compostable pack, for more efficient disposal.

RETHINKING THE WATER BOTTLE & REFILL: The exhibition’s second area of focus is the water bottle and refill. It places individual behaviour in a greater context to consider how adding up our collective actions creates vast amounts of waste. For instance, Heathrow Airport working with the Refill Campaign to encourage passengers to refill from water fountains rather than buy plastic bottles, has worked out that if passengers at Heathrow departures lounges refilled their bottles, Heathrow could reduce its plastic bottle consumption by 35 million a year. PriestmanGoode’s proposal is a water bottle made from biodegradable and commercially compostable bioplastic and cork. The bottle has been designed for repeated, but short-term use, for example the length of a holiday, and is designed to address the impulse buy at airports and stations. The shape of the bottle has been specifically designed to be more efficient for travel, and fits within the literature pocket of an aircraft seat back without infringing on valuable passenger space. The shape is also more efficient for packing, shipping and retail. The idea would be to also revisit the provision of refill stations in infrastructure, so that you would be able to empty your water bottle before security at airports, and refill it directly after, as well as pre-boarding. A water cooler cart would feature onboard the aircraft, allowing passengers to refill during the flight. A water cooler system could also be installed in the galley areas of the airplane, acting as an additional incentive for passengers to get up during long haul flights and increase blood flow – an important health aspect of long haul travel.

RETHINKING THE ONBOARD SERVICE: PriestmanGoode’s graphics and visualisation department has developed a series of animations, that each look at a different element of the onboard service: sleep items, entertainment, onboard shopping and travel toiletries. These animations highlight the impact that small changes in service delivery could have a great positive impact on the environment. The animations pose questions to the viewer, asking them to look at their own behaviour when they travel and whether they need what is on offer to them. For instance, knowing that the majority of passengers travel with their own toothbrushes and travel sized toiletries, should airlines provide these on long haul flights as a matter of course? Or instead, could you as a passenger pick and choose which items you needed from a list of items made from and packaged with sustainable materials. These could be refillable, with airlines providing incentives/reward schemes for passengers. Jo Rowan adds “We don’t want to take anything away from passengers, but a lot of doubling up on things people generally travel with, means we end up with vast amounts of waste in landfill. We also know that service items are an important touchpoint for airlines, and a way they can differentiate themselves from their competition. We want to revisit the provision of services so that passengers can keep getting what they expect from a great travel experience, but at a lower environmental cost.”

RETHINKING CABIN MATERIALS: The final area of the exhibition looks at developments that suppliers are working on to create sustainable materials with an emphasis on circular design and zero waste solutions. These include materials like ECONYL, a regenerated nylon yarn made from fishing nets from the oceans and aquaculture. Other materials include seaweed yarn and textile dye, pineapple wood, and tasman recycled glass.


Images: Courtesy of PriestmanGoode

‘Get Onboard: Reduce. Reuse. Rethink’ is at the Design Museum in London until 9 February 2020

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