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Our American Lost in Paris: Green Chemical Application Designer

Posted on November 20th, 2015 by in New Materials & Applications

Cal State Biomimicry Team

I am so deeply moved by the work of Nohemi Gonzalez, (second from left), who tragically lost her life one week ago in the attack in Paris. Nohemi, a student at Cal State Long Beach focusing on industrial design, was 23 and studying abroad for a semester at Strate School of Design in Paris.

Just last month Nohemi was part of a student team whose design for biodegradable food packaging, Polli Snack, won second place in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge.  From her team’s description, they were addressing an ecosystem of problems with a single solution:

Food education, packaging waste, and accessibility to fresh food are three major food-related challenges the world faces every day. Just by analyzing and researching food problems in the United States, we found out that there is a very high amount of calories consumed from sugars and fats every day, that food and packaging waste occupy almost 50% of the landfills, and that 23.5 million people live in food deserts (urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.)

In chemicals industry speak, Nohemi was designing an application for a relatively new material, biodegradable plastic, which was a topic I touched on in one of my last posts, where I called it a hero new material. The impact of biodegradable plastic in supporting reduction of land fill waste and the pollution of our waterways is relevant only in so far as it is applied, and applied to problems that matter widely to industrial and consumer populations. What is so brilliant about the Polli Snack design is that it tackles multiple problems at once, not only aiming to alleviate the hunger symptom of urban food deserts, but by designing the package to be an expandable plant container in which you can grow food from the seeds in your snack, it’s tackling the root cause, a lack of fresh produce.

May we never forget Nohemi and her team’s accomplishment with this design, never forget that these are just the types of problems that materials innovations, and innovations in the applications of those materials, are capable of solving, and strive to live up to her example.


Members of the Cal State community have set up memorial funds in Nohemi’s name. If you would like to contribute, here are the links to these funds:

 

 

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