Black Gold for Slow Food Nation
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An exploratory exhibit to encourage and demystify composting
The international Slow Food movement was founded in 1989 in response to a culture that increasingly supports fast food while forgetting to ask, Where does this come from and what is the impact? Through events, media, and partnerships, Slow Food Nation is dedicated to creating a framework for a deep environmental connection to food and aims to inspire and empower Americans to build a food system that is sustainable, healthy, and delicious.
The first-ever Slow Food Nation festival—held over Labor Day weekend 2008 in San Francisco—presented an opportunity for farmers, food enthusiasts, politicians, and curious-minded citizens to connect, collaborate, and explore food-related topics. Elaborate pavilions were dedicated to various culinary experiences, with prominent food authors giving lectures, and endless exhibits constructed for educating, tasting, and browsing.
In preparation for the festival, a team from IDEO set out to champion the value of compost (named “Black Gold” for its ability to transform ordinary soil into rich fertilizer). The team began its research by speaking with experts in the field, and by experimenting with various composting materials. With insights from research, the team wanted to design an educational—and sustainable—exhibit that would garner interest in the “ultimate no-waste product.”
More than 100 bricks of Black Gold were cast and given away as a tangible representation of the value of compost. The Presidio Trust—a federally mandated organization, which manages San Francisco’s Presidio park—donated wood pallets and mulch for the exhibit. Seven hundred pounds of worm castings were procured from a local worm farm to help make the bricks. The castings, mulch, and compost were on display for participants to touch, feel, and smell, while engaging graphics and signage told the story and process of composting. Designers on site fielded questions from farmers and consumers alike, making composters out of ordinary citizens and demystifying the process.
Project date: 2009