Core77 Design Awards
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Our environment is broken and vulnerable as a result of human activities and expansion. Biodiversity loss is one of the most urgent environmental challenges that we are currently facing and our food habits and agriculture systems are the main factors contributing to this problem. As a response to this issue, Econut speculates about an alternative future in which we thrive in a non-human-centered co-living ecosystem. We propose an eco-balancing food movement and suggest eating invasive species in order to reduce the current food industry's negative impact on biodiversity.
From designed objects to imagined lifestyles, we would like to inquire about how we may shift our food habits to better work with the ecosystem's resilience and open up a novel perspective into humanity in its comprehensive context.
Humanity has been altering nature for our human-centered needs for centuries. Our dietary habits have one of the greatest direct impacts on our environment. We cultivate and breed species based on our food preferences, such as wheat and cows, which constantly disrupts local ecosystems and aggravates global warming. How might we alter the food industry to be less disruptive? What if our food habits could adapt to the ecosystem instead of consuming it? Econut was created to speculate about an alternative future in which foods and lifestyles are not centered solely around our human needs and desires. We also seek to provoke reflections on our existing food habits and agriculture systems.
In 2025, an ecological snack, Econut, became popular among the citizens. These treats are made out of invasive species, which negatively impact biodiversity and are the third leading cause of species extinctions. In New York City, a disruptive and invasive species called the snakehead fish was identified in Meadow Lake and Willow Lake in Queens. While this species appears physically grotesque, they can make for an excellent meal. Therefore, the AI-powered Econut store is designed to closely monitor the status and activities of snakehead fish in these two lakes. Based on big data, the store recommends the number of snakehead fish that should be removed from these lakes daily with the help of robots, so that donut-shaped snacks can be made out of all their edible parts. Each snack is filled with fresh fish jelly and wrapped with crispy fried fish skin. Each Econut is named based on its ingredients, such as SHF for snakehead fish, and has a unique number on its package, which allows the consumer to track the specific disruptive species that was used to create that Econut. Those numbers also work as a medal for each consumer's contribution to balancing the local ecosystem.
Moreover, Econuts have various flavor selections. For example, vegan consumers can choose the WWC flavor, which is made out of water chestnuts, an aquatic tuber vegetable infesting the Hudson River, and topped with waterthyme powder, a freshwater grass loaded with essential vitamins and minerals. The water chestnut base tastes like taro, while the taste and texture of the waterthyme powder is similar to matcha powder.
Some flavors are seasonal, such as the FigS, which is only severed in the summer, since its topping is made of white garden snail caviar, which is only available during the summer. The white coating is made from the meat of invasive crabs, such as the European green crab, and stuffed with Ficus Carica, an edible Asian species known as the common fig.
Some special flavors, such as Spine, are made out of Asian Sea Squirt, known as a sea pineapple, which is native to the Northwest Pacific and has become widely distributed in the coastal waters of North America.
Econuts can be sold at stores or even in vending machines. The quantity of each flavor is limited and the menu is adjusted daily by the AI system based on the status of local ecosystems. Thus, some special flavors might go fast. Econuts went viral in NYC and gradually expanded to other cities around the world. Each city's variety is authentic to that location's local ecosystems and disruptive invasive species.
Ecologarian Lifestyle Movement
As the Econut became more and more popular, it led to a new lifestyle choice and food movement, called the ecologarian movement, which focuses on eating as a means of eco-balancing. Restaurants also started providing ecologarian menus to fulfill their customer's needs. The vision of the ecologarian is, eventually through the combined efforts of all ecologarians, we'll be able to thrive while coexisting with our local ecosystems.
Non-Human Centered Thinking
The concept of the Econut is not only a speculation of an alternative food future, but also a practice of non-human centered thinking, which provides an unusual perspective through which to look at humanity in its comprehensive context and seek to move ourselves towards more preferable futures.
For a long time, we've been putting ourselves at the center of our understanding of the world while overlooking our relationship with other species and our position in the overall ecosystem. Now, we have started to realize more and more about the problems and challenges resulting from this framework. It's time for us to find an alternative way to evolve ourselves and the planet.
By cultivating highly nutritious crops and utilizing lab-grown meat as our main food sources, we can lessen our interfere with and impact on the environment. However, instead of separating us from nature and becoming more isolated, we believe in the power of uniting and collaborating as a part of nature. As we tackle these big challenges, we must believe in the ability of our intelligence and humanity to lead us to find better ways to thrive and coexist with other lifeforms while deepening our understanding of ourselves on this planet and within the universe.