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Visual recipes of low impact materials for sustainable production and use



Recipes for Material Revolution is a platform for sharing recipes for making low impact materials to inspire innovation and collaboration. Currently, there is a vast number of complex man-made materials being produced in industrial manufacture and science laboratories. It is a challenge to keep an overview of all processes as science and technology have evolved, and this missing transparency has lead to impactful practices.

However, this Materials Revolution has also created a variety of recipes that generate low impact processes and inventive approaches. These are being improved every day, and research is being invested in the development of low impact processes. How can we connect all these efforts and make them visible as they evolve?

Recipes for Materials Revolution supports the ever-changing landscape of materials through sharing of processes in recipes. These translate complex processes into simplified key information. Here materials are not described through their impacts, however explored through their ingredients and methods of production. This is achieved through a collaborative approach where contributors communicate where materials are from and how they are made. Most of this information is already readily available either on content sharing platforms, in open access journals, or in printed publications, however not curated into one overview that is easily accessible and comprehensive for all - from designers to scientists, from consumers to industry.

The platform will lead to testing of material processes and improvements by a larger community of individuals, companies and scientific institutions. These will pollinate low impact ideas and initiate connected approaches for making. Benefitting from this platform, people across the globe will be incentivized to contribute to the recipes. The Materials Revolution begins through sharing transparent information, where the leading question will be how and not what low impacts have been achieved.

What actions do you propose?

‘ artefacts have been named by the sociologist Knorr Cetina, in her studies of the interactions of particle physicists, as ‘epistemic objects’ (Cetina 2001: 181). Epistemic objects are characterised by the ambivalence of their ontological status as knowledge-bearers, being both stable and mutable at the same time. They are stable in the sense that they comprise what the artist/maker currently knows so far; and mutable in the sense that they are incomplete and ‘open’, allowing for further exploration by the creator and/or others towards new knowledge-making.’


This platform explores an understanding of making of materials before objects, and replaces this with a focus on their production phase through the processes that are taking place. As a platform, it will also evolve through updated content and reflect the state of the art of materials at different moments in time. The use of a recipes format provides a framework where anyone can access information on processes for making. This can lead to different scenarios: either implementation from contributors, perfecting the recipe or demonstrating outcomes; further sharing; and contributions from experts, makers and scientists to propose changes to the material production process. This platform proposes a similar approach to the encyclopedia in an open source Wikipedia, where multiple contributors add their changes and propose alterations for a larger view on the topic, in this case materials. It harnesses knowledge from a community as through the Climate CoLab platform. It also connects to other models that are specific for open source technologies, such as Thingiverse with its focus on sharing files for 3D printing. A recipes format for collecting materials information links to popular development for news websites such as the Guardian and BBC in the UK to include a food section their readers can contribute to, and has lead to separate platforms due to the quantity of recipes available. ‘Cookbook’ formats are being used in press articles in popular contemporary online news sites such as BuzzFeed news to simplify complex information into simple steps. This project would provide a platform for the making of materials, and exploring the processes behind these for a new understanding of their impacts on the environment. It can span from low tech recipes for making biodegradable materials, to scientific processes that require specialist knowledge and tools. This information is already readily available through published papers and patents for specialist knowledge, or blogs and YouTube videos for low tech experiments. While descriptions of materials are available through various channels, there is no connected effort to build a leading resource for information on how materials are produced. The disjunction of language when describing materials is leading many layers of information that are not transparent, and difficulties in finding correct resources for the accessing recipes that provide a full picture of a material. This platform would connect these efforts, and become an updatable and changing database for participants to contribute to, creating a common understanding through shared language. Actions can start at a small scale, with a few chosen recipes on the initial platform, and then lead to a wider collection. Alumni from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology can share a recipe that inspired them during their studies, or that they have developed. Similar to a process where recipes for food are passed on to the next generations, this platform provides recipes for making. Story-telling about materials is enhanced through a narrative, where the material is not only described in its impacts and applications, however it includes stories for how it has been made, and what this can lead to.


The Recipes for Materials Revolution would add a section within the existing Nike MAKING app, providing a connection to knowledge about impacts of materials with knowledge on origin and processes of production. The Nike MAKING app is an immediate tool for information, and together with the online platform will create a tool that combines information from multiple sources while assuring that resources are credited appropriately. Through the app and platform, Recipes for Materials Revolution will demonstrate how materials imply making, while recipes can be implemented and lead to new low impact processes to transform the industry. Better materials are needed, and as a first step we need to map the current landscape of material processes, making it available and accessible for everyone, and leading the way to increasingly lower impacts in the short, medium and long term.


·       Inventors, designers, industry and scientists create a transparent, open, and traceable platform for exchange of material processes.

·       A shared approach for communicating materials, creating a complete data base that is crowd sourced and leads to a common language.

·       Collaboration of designers and material scientists to develop recipes for low impact materials.

·       Connected processes for low impact materials will lead to innovation.

·       An accessible resource that makes the ongoing research and developments in materials visible.

·       A collection of resources where authorship and crediting is supported in a context of materials collaboration.

·       The implementation of low impact materials in industry, science, design schools and education.

·       Education models that improve questioning and exploration of materials driven by students.

·       Experimentation with low impact materials to upscale small developments into large effects on industry and manufacturing.

·       New modes of education, where students experiment with these recipes to develop their own subject areas and contribute to the platform.

·       Improved collaboration between material research at a global scale through knowledge sharing and convergent efforts.

·       A new generation of individuals and teams that impact the industry through questioning manufacturing.

·       A skill base that promotes collaboration and experimentation with material processes for lower impacts.

Incentives that drive more sustainable materials use

Recipes for Materials Revolution is a format that is universally understood and that every generation can connect to. It enables an engagement with consumers and users to make informed decisions. The visual Recipes format expands the understanding of invisible materials information. This information is currently disconnected from the user as it is taking place in remote factories and requires specialist knowledge. Recipes are an incentive for sustainable materials use, and can lead to local events that communicate recipes behind each material product. A connection of the platform to tangible material information will support a generation that rediscovers low impact materials and connects valuable worldwide data to an increased understanding of scientific and technical progress.

Recent sustainability breakthroughs with materials are built on experimental materials approaches. Materials made from algae as explored by Teer Verhumen or from orange waste in OrangeFibre are some of the most promising enterprises started from materials exploration. The platform will demonstrate how incentives for experimentation and local resourcefulness can lead to innovation and a materials revolution.

Beyond education, this would also encourage designers in small and medium enterprises to test or develop alternative manufacturing processes, leading to new aesthetics, services, and products. Scientists could see their recipes feeding into designs, and be incentivized to collaborate for new ideas. Individual makers could feed into the platform and be incentivized to explore new processes.

Curation and validation

Often materials are communicated in numbers, charts and graphs, which makes it difficult to comprehend the scale of impacts and processes of materials. A tangible presentation through design will connect to all users. It will break down barriers in using low impact materials that are mostly perceived with specific aesthetics and qualities.

Due to the impact that a visual connection to ‘recipes’ can achieve, the curation involves a materials team in international hot-spots to connect with local enterprises. The communication of materials information succeeds through a visual connection to the making process. The team will support the validation and curation for transforming this information into recipes and transparent communication strategies.

Who will take these actions?

Recipes for Materials Revolution is open to all from industry, science and education. Each contributor can be an individual maker or part of a company or science organization. Students and educators can contribute through projects and be part of an international network. Each actor in this process can switch roles between producer and user, as the platform becomes part of a sharing economy where everyone can engage in various ways. Anyone can provide recipes as well as access these for testing, however to create a living platform the community can be divided but also evolve from the following roles:

·       Scientists: provide recipes for low-impact materials, evaluate existing contributions, suggest improvements and create networks of like-minded recipes groups.

·       Designers: explore the recipes in their work, contribute to experimental approaches with these materials, include questions into the discussion, prompting thinking and conversations around the material recipes. Improvements made by designers are shared on the platform.

·       Education and organisations: support the recipes through their published research developments, encourage students and educators to explore recipes, create innovative teaching environments that are based on collaboration and feed the outcomes back to the platform. This builds entrepreneurship and engagement in student groups.

·       Industry: creates transparency of their material processes while finding inspiration for using low impact materials. Industry increasingly involves research and development in-house.

·       Makers: Individuals take on sections of the platform and contribute to sourcing, fact-checking and linking recipes to more material research. Individual contributors are moderators on the site, developing the conversation and adding to the landscape through imaginative, resourceful approaches.

Where will these actions be taken?

Apps such as the Nike MAKING app and the collaboration between industry and educational, technical and scientific institutions such as MIT can curate this content into one platform, and through design make it comprehensive and transparent for all.

Recipes for Materials Revolution will be available through the app and through an online platform. Actions can take place anywhere: Anyone interested to join can access the platform, making it open for educational design institutions, companies, industry, individuals and scientific institutions. Free subscriptions for access to the site will support tracking the contributions and building a map of actions taking place.

Materials engagement beyond platforms and apps

Recipes for Materials Revolution promotes a visually engaging approach to materials, in a language and format that everyone can understand. Numerical data and graphs can be useful for trained designers and key stakeholder, however do not address consumers and designers at a large scale. While language can be a barrier, recipes translate complex information into a universal format, creating a common understanding of materials.

The proposal is about making information about materials tangible to connect to users and leading to low impact decisions. Apps and platforms promote an accessible, direct connection to materials information. However, materials require a hands on approach. This expands beyond the app to the creation of Pop-Up labs, and in a second phase to the development of a Materials Recipes lab, as spaces where recipes are tested and implemented.

The MAKING app would transform into a MAKING lab. The connection between digital platform and tangible material experiments supports the aims of this proposal to share recipes for an increased transparency of materials used. Users can learn from books, data and visuals about materials, however materials require innovative communication that supports an understanding of ingredients and making.

What are other key benefits?

The Recipes for Materials Revolution platform can also include low tech home recipes for making dyes or materials processes, with a collection ranging from ancient traditions to technological and highly scientific developments. This will help preserve antique and historic processes, as well as documenting the progress and developments of materials worldwide. Recipes can be time-coded for an overview of the history of the materials and how these have developed over time. This timeline will support an overview of the developments in materials over time, as well as create a common language with definitions of materials that is developed by all contributors.

What are the proposal’s costs?

While recipes will be crowd-sourced and gathered to create visibility of existing developments in developing low impact materials, there will be costs associated with the set up and running of the platform, and gathering and communicating transparent materials information:

Costs for Phase 1: 2016-2018 (2 years)

·       Platform and app development for recipes format: $20,000

·       Local materials team: $20,000

·       Design for recipes format: $35,000

·       Prototype of a Pop-Up Lab: $10,000

The Materials Revolution has no cost as it is initiated by people joining the revolution. The data for the platform is crowd sourced through a community of contributors, and functions through the existing NIKE Making app. The development of the recipes would not require further investment of resources, materials or energy as it would gather existing community knowledge on all levels form individuals to organisations. The extension of the Nike Making app to a section for the Recipes for Materials Revolution would be similar to the current aesthetic, building a refined visual outcome to inspire making and collaboration. The collaboration between the Nike Making and the MIT Climate CoLab space would support building the platform for the community. Both the app and platform will make input from the community possible. The platform can be linked to the MIT Climate CoLab as an extended section, or exist as a separate entity. Volunteer certified contributors will review and moderate content of the platform against information that is available to the public. Information will grow with the user, and low impact materials will spread through industry.

Time line

Short term (5-15) years:

·       Collection of recipes through a website submission form, with Part 1 of the Recipes for Materials Revolution available within the first year, starting with low-tech recipes from the Recipes for Material Activism publication (Ribul, 2013)

·       More recipes are added to the platform for experimentation within the first 5 years

·       Designers and scientists in education contribute to the app and the platform

·       Industry is adopting these recipes leading to lower impacts on manufacturing, as well as the development of new aesthetics and processes


Medium term (15-50years)

·       A first generation of the revolution community have been engaged with the recipes from education onwards and are now working in industry using this knowledge on low impact material processes

·       Low impact materials have significantly improved through sharing of research and experimentation

·       Recipes for Materials Revolution has collected all available recipes for low impact materials into one platform

·       Use of novel resources and processes are expected through climate change for the creation of new recipes


Long term (50-100 years)

·       Systems for self-sufficiency, collaboration and recipe sharing are increasingly important in a context of reduced resources through scarcity and climate change

·       The collaboration on the platform is sustainable through the addition of recipes to cover all aspects of manufacturing

Related proposals

With approval from the community, proposals from the Materials Matter contest can be included on the platform. Information on materials with low impact processes would be simplified into recipes.


1)    Ribul, M (2013) Recipes for Material Activism. Available at: (Accessed: 22 May 2016)

2)    Knorr Cetina, K. (2001) ‘Objectual Practice’, in T. R. Schatzki, K. Knorr Cetina and E. Von Savigni (eds.) The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory, London: Routledge: 175-188

3)    TED (2013) School in the cloud - Sugata Mitra. Available at: (Accessed: 22 May 2016)

4)    Wikipedia (no date). Available at: (Accessed: 22 May 2016)

5)    Thingiverse (no date). Available at: (Accessed: 22 May 2016)

6)    Martinson, J., Jackson, J. & Sweney, M. (2016) BBC climbdown over online recipes after public outcry. Available at: (Accessed: 22 May 2016)

7)    BBC Good Food (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 22 May 2016)

8)    Guardian Witness (2016) Recipe swap: raspberries. Available at: (Accessed: 22 May 2016)