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Designing for Social Impact


Amer Jandali, founder of Braceletote, wants to tell you that it is an amazing time to be alive. Disney just hopped on board to ban straws, Heinz is looking to make all of its ketchup packets recyclable or biodegradable by 2025, and even the behemoth chain Kroger is talking about phasing out plastic bags over the next seven years.

Designing for Social Impact

By Amer Jandali

Never before has there been such global awareness of plastic waste, or so many people seeking solutions, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. We are in the midst of a cultural shift. Forbes reports that as of September 2018 there were at least 349 states, cities or counties within the U.S. that have either implemented fees for plastic bags or banned them altogether.

Every day I become more involved in this movement and more inspired by its momentum. But I never used to think twice about our plastic problem. Six years ago, landing on the couch after a late night DJing, I found myself watching a documentary about plastic bags, called “Bag It.”

I heard the statistics (more than a trillion wasted each year) and saw the impacts (pollution, harm to animals, waste). But that wasn’t what struck me. What really woke me up was how unaware I had been. How was such a huge problem allowed to persist without proper public knowledge and accountability?

What really woke me up was how unaware I had been. How was such a huge problem allowed to persist without proper public knowledge and accountability?

I stopped using plastic bags. This habit soon became a motive for grad school and led me to pursue a degree in Design for Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts in New York. During the first semester of shop class, we were tasked with designing a tool to solve a social issue.

I sketched out a few ideas — a sanitary doormat and a to-go container that changed colors when the food went bad. Nothing really stuck until my friend Lauren said, “Dude, why don’t you design something around plastic bags? Isn’t that why you’re here?”

Looking down, I noticed something for the first time; I wore bracelets as a form of self expression. Why not have one about ditching plastic bags? The thing is, I didn’t want a bracelet that just said reusable tote. I wanted it to be a reusable tote. I wanted a Braceletote… so I made one.

amer jandali braceletote

The iterative process has continued since that day in September 2014. I designed Braceletote for the corner store essentials: eggs, fruit and bread for tomorrow’s breakfast, cleaning supplies, toiletries and other things we tend to grab on the go. But it’s conveniently within arm’s reach for all types of errands.

The bag is sized to maximize the use of a square yard of fabric, minimizing waste while still remaining compact around your wrist. Right now, it’s made of a virgin nylon, but in the future it will be produced from recycled or upcycled materials.

The bag’s sleeve — our creative canvas — is already made from upcycled fabric scraps and Army/Navy surplus parachutes.

It’s thrilling to be on the cusp of releasing a product that is the first of its kind, but it does come with a fair share of anxiety.

I see this moment as the perfect storm, an opportunity to discover life’s virtues beyond professionalism or project management, such as letting go of expectations and the symbolic power we assign to money.

For me, this experience has revealed the universality of the creative process, and the oscillations between struggles and successes.

What I have learned is to stay committed to the intention and detached from the outcomes. Let the research and user needs guide the process, and always center back on why you went for it in the first place.

Pre-order your Braceletote today at Braceletote.co

Brace-le-tote (noun) A small tote bag that folds up and becomes a bracelet. Handy, self- expressive, durable; it’s designed for your urban commuter lifestyle.

Amer is the founder of Future Meets Present, a start-up innovation company that designs sustainable products, systems, and events. Their first product is the Braceletote, a small tote bag that folds up and becomes a bracelet.

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