"Vegetable and Design" by ZENB
Global warming, population increasing and all the problems related to garbage disposal are nowadays the most prominent global issue. The environment is changing with speed and patterns never seen in the past. The total world population will reach almost 10 billion people by 2050, and the risk of food shortages will become a global issue in the next years. For this reason, the topic of a “wasteless” industrial production will be crucial in many fields, from architecture to design, from fashion business to the food industry.
AIA (American Institute of Architects) – for example – proposed the New York’s Zero Waste Design Guidelines, an insight on how architects and designers could think about waste management during the design process and contribute to helping the city to meet ambitious sustainability goals. The guidelines underline the idea of treating waste as a resource rather than trash. “Zero waste requires an integrated approach with architects, planners and building operators working in tandem to design a coherent system in which materials are easily separated, handled, stored and collected in their own streams. As additional material streams such as organic waste, textiles and e-waste are collected, we need our buildings to facilitate their separation”. More generally, the concept of “Zero waste design” is quickly spreading worldwide thanks to some pioneering designers and brands.
Being truly eco-friendly nowadays means considering the entire lifecycle of the products, from its production until the disposal, avoiding waste from going to a landfill. This approach was quite common in the past before the consumerism became a habit. Japanese kimonos, for example, were designed in a way to save as much as possible the valuable fabric. Being aware of its vast waste production, the fashion industry is starting to embrace the trend of “Zero Waste fashion design”. Zero-waste designers aim to create clothing patterns with less fabric consumption by using innovative cutting techniques and smart fashion silhouettes.
Similarly to architecture and fashion, also the food industry is embracing this trend. AI-driven dynamic pricing solution is already used in retail for fresh food, reducing waste and increasing profitability. Several blogs collect recipes and cooking strategies to achieve a sustainable approach to gastronomy. Zero-Waste Chef blog, for example, recently launched the global challenge “14 Days to Zero Food Waste”, stating that “If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, just behind the US and China”.
In this context of global awareness, also Japan is doing its part. The 21_21 Design Sight in Tokyo recently hosted a small yet intriguing exhibition called “Vegetable and Design”. “This exhibition explores vegetables in their entirety as they have never been seen before. By focusing on their functional beauty, nutrients, and taste through the perspective of design, the exhibition allows the visitors to experience the world of "ZENB." ZENB is a brand created by Mizkan to act for the well-being of the earth, society, and all that dwell on it”.
Produced by using of the whole vegetables (including the core, peel, seeds, and stem), ZENB goods encourage a revolutionary approach for the food industry, more sustainable production and improvements in people's health. The concept started from a simple yet inspiring observation: we often throw away almost one-third of the whole vegetable or fruit because it is not appealing to our sight or taste. Nevertheless, that waste contains a “nutritional treasure” that can offer more “goodness” to our body. For example, of the corn produced in one year, 93,150 tons of kernels are eaten, and 46,016 tons of cob are thrown away.
Designing a new way to eat vegetables meant rethinking the production process to include all the parts that are usually discarded. Mizkan developed a technology that concentrates plants by dehydrating and grinding them, then transforming it in sticks or paste. The cob of the corn, the peel of the beet, the stems and seeds of pumpkins and peppers, and the pods of edamame and green peas are some examples of nutritional treasures recovered. The exhibition focused on the functional beauty of vegetables, showcasing 2M-high paprika and wood-carved vegetables. Kids as well could enjoy these stimulating objects and learn more about nature and its products.
The idea of eating whole plants proposed by ZENB is a simple yet effective strategy to create a more efficient food supply. It has the potential to start a new global trend in the food industry and contribute to avoiding the food shortage crisis in the next future.