48 hours to make an Impact

On a whim, my teammate Stephanie and I signed up for UC Irvine’s 2022 Design-a-thon. This was my first ever design-a-thon, and the idea of designing a product from 0 to 100 within 48 hours was definitely a daunting task.

Challenge Brief

Design your own desktop or mobile application that advocates for either social justice or sustainability.

Social Justice

A product/service that encourages or provides the opportunity for equity in economic, political, or social issues.


A product/service that promotes sustainable behaviors to combat the climate crisis.

We decided to tackle the sustainability track, with a focus on food sustainability, given that food sustainability is one of the biggest issue to the climate crisis. The more the human population grows, the more food needs to be provided, and the planet simply can’t keep up.

Through our research, the team discovered that one way to have a more sustainable diet is to cut out meat. In fact, vegans actually generate a 41.7% smaller volume of greenhouse gases than meat-eaters.

Graph of carbon emissions outputted from different sources of meat (with beef being the highest)

How might we persuade the everyday person to consider small dietary changes to make an environmental impact?


Survey Insights: The Meat of the Matter

In order to get a better grasp on why exactly people are hesitant to pursue a more sustainable diet, we drafted up a quick survey to peel away to the core of the problem. After sending out the survey to a range of our connections, we received 30 responses.



Taste, price, and motivation

of participants have considered changing their diet in the past

of participants are willing to try new things, but still feel attached to their current diet

are the biggest obstacles when it comes to changing diets.

Quote from user that says: “I’ve heard many health benefits of going vegetarian, but I don’t think it’s possible to completely give up meat.” Quote from user that says: “I’m too accustomed to the taste and accessibility of meat.”Quote from user that says: “Changing diet requires discipline and that’s something I don’t have.”

Overall, the survey reveals that users are open to the positive changes that a new diet can bring but feel attached to their more comfortable diets.

The Problem

Although many would consider altering their diet, individuals are accustomed to their current preferences and fear that taste, price, and convenience will be sacrificed with a more sustainable diet.



Individuals are afraid that they will have to sacrifice the taste, convenience, and price of their meals.

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Alternative recipes to familiar meals, small steps big difference, time/price estimate, reviews


Individuals are unaware that a diet change could decrease carbon emissions.

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Educate users about significance, include carbon footprint numbers and resources


Individuals are unmotivated to research and find new sustainable recipes.

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Recommendations based on preferences, progress tracking and gamification


Individuals don’t feel like they’re able to make the large jump in diet change.

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Friendly language to reassure users, similar recipes with different carbon footprints

Lo-fidelity sketches done on paper

Quick lo-fidelity sketches and information architecture to draw out the base of the app.

With the problem clearly defined, we quickly dove into the iteration phase. At this point, we only had about 24 hours left before our designs must be submitted, so the pressure was on. As a team, Stephanie and I each tackled different features of our proposed solution and gave each other feedback along the way.

We decided to name our final product Ratatouille, inspired by the Disney movie poster that hung behind us as we designed and iterated for the whole day. With Ratatouille, anyone can learn to cook sustainably and live a lifestyle that leaves a smaller carbon footprint on the world.

Ratatouille header divider

No step is too small

Onboarding and sign up

  • Aims to show users even small steps can make a big change
  • Allow users to customize how big a change they want to make
  • Bring familiarity to a new diet with food preferences

Choose the greener option

Dashboard & recipe card

  • Clearly display most important information like time, price, diet type, and carbon emissions
  • Bring awareness to alternative recipes if users are not ready for a big change
  • Ease users’ fear about taste and flavor with community reviews

Discover recipes for you


  • Display results relevant to the user’s search no matter the diet type
  • Offers a variety of alternatives with different environmental impact to let users make their own decision
  • Allow users to compare carbon emissions between recipes

Tracking your impact


  • Motivate users and show them that their changes truly make a difference
  • Gamify the journey to a more sustainable lifestyle with progress tracking and achievements

Wrapping Up

After a crazy weekend of ideating, researching, and designing, Stephanie and I were delighted to be chosen as one of the finalist amongst over 200 other students. We presented our design process and final prototype to the judging panel, and we were honored to be deemed the 1st Place winner of the 2022 UC Irvine Design-a-thon.

I’m really glad we were able to come up with an impactful product and idea, especially since sustainability is one of my personal passions and concerns. I also impressed myself with the speed and quick decision making that is required of a design-a-thon, and the skills I learned over this weekend are invaluable.

Special thank you to the Design at UCI team for organizing such an amazing event!