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Biodesign Challenge and the Google Hardware Design Studio partnered on a month-long design Sprint to explore better ways to reduce carbon, increase biodiversity, and bring positive change to both people and the environment.
In this project, we focused on water as an essential element to human activity and its role in the making of Google Nest products - a smart home ecosystem that keeps transforming the way we live in and with our homes. We acknowledge that our technologies are tightly interwoven with our lives. Yet, it is easily forgotten how profound the relationship between our technologies and the natural environment and its resources is. Our way of making, consuming and discarding consumer electronics in a linear system is evidence of this disconnect between us, nature and our everyday technologies.
Although Google is at the forefront of recycling innovation for their products, we propose a radical and yet obtainable alternative to the use of finite resource and energy-intensive recycling processes. In this scenario, plastic is not a component anymore. The shell protecting the electrical components of NEST is composed of biominerals made by a photosynthetic organism: cyanobacteria. Through biomineralization, the organism produces intricate biominerals under mild, ambient conditions in saltwater. This helps transition the manufacturing of Google Hardware products away from freshwater use.
This change in production has a positive effect on the ecosystem. In addition, it changes the aesthetics and perception of the materials that surround us. Materials will return to a primordial state and be part of an ecosystem that builds them up, uses them and breaks them down. By embracing bio-based circular systems, Google can lead the way in breaking society’s addiction to fossil fuels and re-establish the human connection to the living environment.